x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Masdar extends foothold in Mauritania as projects grow

Masdar has expanded the capacity in its Mauritania solar project by more than 38 per cent, increasing Abu Dhabi’s foothold in Africa’s renewable energy sector.

One of Masdar’s solar projects being constructed in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Masdar, which broke ground on the project in December, says it has passed the halfway mark in its project to construct a 16.6MW solar power plant network in the country. Courtesy Masdar
One of Masdar’s solar projects being constructed in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Masdar, which broke ground on the project in December, says it has passed the halfway mark in its project to construct a 16.6MW solar power plant network in the country. Courtesy Masdar

Masdar has expanded the cap­acity of its solar project in Mauritania by more than 38 per cent, increasing Abu Dhabi’s foothold in the country’s renewable energy sector, a company official said yesterday.

Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company had originally planned to construct separate solar plants in seven areas in Mauritania, totalling 12 megawatts.

“Along the way, seeing the successful delivery and the positive impact the projects were bringing to local communities, the scope of work was expanded to eight plants, bringing the total capacity to 16.6MW,” Khaled Ballaith, the director of Masdar Special Projects, told The National.

The company began work in December on the solar power plants that will be housed in off-grid areas to help the African country reduce fuel costs. Masdar said yesterday that it had completed more than half of the construction of the 16.6MW project.

The country began to reassess its power generation sector four years ago and came up with new targets, which included renewable energy making up 20 per cent of its energy mix by 2020.

In 2000, only 18 per cent of Mauritania had access to electricity but that had nearly doubled to 34 per cent by 2013, according to a country report by Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Fossil fuel accounts for 66 per cent of main energy consumption and the country must import fuel to meet the growing domestic energy demand.

Mauritania spent nearly US$546 million on petroleum product imports in 2008, which places additional financial burdens on the country, according to Irena.

“Delivery of this innovative network will bring electricity to thousands of families for the first time, changing their lives for the better and further enabling socioeconomic development,” said Mohamed Al Ramahi, Masdar’s chief executive.

Irena said that Mauritania was poised to surpass its renewable energy target with several projects either completed or in the pipeline, such as Masdar’s previous venture.

Masdar built the Sheikh Zayed 15MW solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in the country three years ago. It powers 10,000 homes.

Mauritania’s petroleum ministry said that the $31m project generated about $4m in savings from fuel consumption during the first year with a return on investment expected in 2020.

The UAE, in a joint initiative between the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and Irena, has awarded $11m in concessional loans to Mauritania to help increase its power generation.

The country’s director of the petroleum and energy ministry also said last year that a 50MW solar PV plant financed by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development was also on the agenda in hopes of attracting “more Emirati companies”.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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