Jebel Ali power plant leads Dubai on solar energy, but firms face bottleneck
More than 5,000 solar panels are helping a Dubai power station to become one of the region’s largest, single rooftop arrays, but companies say the authorisation process is inhibiting a large-scale roll-out.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) announced yesterday that its Jebel Ali power plant was producing 1.5 megawatts of power, which is enough to power about a quarter of a million homes, according to the US-based Solar Energy Industry Association.
Dewa installed 5,240 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the water reservoir at M-Station, a power production and desalination plant with a total capacity of more than 2,000MW of electricity and 140 million imperial gallons of water a day.
The solar rooftops are part of Shams Dubai, a three-pronged initiative to help the emirate reach its goal of 25 per cent reliance on solar energy by 2030.
Many other companies trying to get on board with the rooftop initiative are facing delays because of the approval process.
Phanes Group, a Dubai-based solar energy developer, plans to add 20 to 30MW of solar power, which translates to about US$30 million in investment. “We have set that deliberately lower because, at the moment, Shams is still young and we have to see how quickly we get through the Dewa authorisation process,” said Martin Haupts, the managing director of Phanes.
He said the installation of 1MW of solar on a rooftop would average about four to six weeks, but Dubai’s regulatory process has morphed that time span to three to six months, which is the main reason that is keeping volume low. “In terms of manpower and equity available, [Phanes] could obtain that for 30 to 50MW in 18 months. However, I’m sceptical that we would get that much through the authorisation process,” he said.
Local firm Yellow Door Energy has more than 80MW of projects under development and just announced its latest deal with Berger Paints, to provide 400 kilowatts of solar power.
“We’re waiting for municipal approval [for projects], which is the bottleneck most companies are facing,” said Jeremy Crane, the chief executive of Yellow Door.
Dewa is actively working with the municipality to help create a more efficient system, according to a source working at the utility provider.
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