ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Government connected the emirate's first major solar power plant into the electricity grid yesterday, marking the first tangible result of the country's multibillion-dollar foray into renewable energy. Officials connected a 10-megawatt solar panel array at Masdar City, the carbon-neutral development at the edge of the capital, to the grid in a ceremony attended by Sheikh Diab bin Zayed, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (Adwea).
The connection represented "an important milestone in the development of Masdar City and in our emirate's history" and would pave the way for a number of larger renewable energy projects to be connected to the grid as the city is constructed, said Sultan al Jaber, the chief executive of Masdar, the government's renewable energy firm. "The greatest challenge came in the amount of power we are generating and sending to the grid," he said.
"Ten megawatts is a significant amount of power, and a plant this size has not been grid-connected in the Middle East before," he said. The amount of electricity generated by the Dh185 million (US$50.3m) solar panels would displace 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year that would have been emitted from fossil fuels in a conventional power station, according to Masdar officials. The sum of carbon is equivalent to taking 3,300 cars off the emirate's roads.
The agreements with ADWEA, the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC) and the Regulation and Supervision Bureau (RSB) would "streamline future projects", said Dr al Jaber. Abu Dhabi has set a goal of generating 7 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020, and Masdar has plans to construct several large-scale solar thermal plants in Madinat Zayed that will each generate more than 100Mw from the sun.
One megawatt is enough electricity to power between 500 and 1,000 homes, depending on a host of factors including the need for air conditioning and electricity-use patterns. The solar panels connected yesterday at Masdar, composed equally of two categories of photovoltaics called thin film and crystalline silicon, will generate about 17,5000Mw-hours of electricity directly from sunlight every year. The output will mostly be used to power the construction of the city and its first building: the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which opens in the autumn. More panels will be installed on the roofs of buildings, Dr al Jaber said.
Masdar said the high output of the panels meant the plant "is also one of the most cost-efficient PV [photovoltaic] installations in the world", but did not detail how much each Mw-hour would cost to generate. Masdar officials said they had not yet reached agreement with ADWEA on a price to charge for the electricity.