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UAE opens world’s largest single-site solar plant

The Al Dhafra solar plant in Abu Dhabi covers 20 sq km and can power 200,000 homes Masdar
The Al Dhafra solar plant in Abu Dhabi covers 20 sq km and can power 200,000 homes
  • Al Dhafra inaugurated
  • Four million solar panels
  • 2GW annual capacity

The UAE’s Al Dhafra project – described by its developers as the world’s largest single-site solar power plant – has been formally inaugurated, with an annual production capacity of 2 gigawatts (GW). 

The Al Dhafra solar PV (photovoltaic) plant is located 35 kilometres from Abu Dhabi’s capital city.

It can generate enough electricity to power almost 200,000 homes, displacing 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year, its developers said. 

It comprises around 4 million solar panels spanning more than 20 square kilometres of land in the UAE desert, and features technology that enables sunlight capture on both sides of the panels to maximise yields. 

The plant was built in a single phase by UAE renewables company Masdar, with partners Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa), France’s EDF Renewables and China’s JinkoPower. 

Emirates Water and Electricity Company is the energy procurer and it and Masdar jointly own 60 percent of the project. EDF and Jinko own the remaining 40 percent.  

“Al Dhafra is part of a long and proud history of energy innovation, made possible thanks to the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, chairman of Masdar and president of the upcoming Cop28 climate change summit, in a statement. 

“This world-leading solar project demonstrates remarkable progress in solar power efficiency, innovation and cost competitiveness,” he added, pointing out that Al Dhafra sets a new record-low tariff for solar energy, of AED4.85 fils per kilowatt hour ($1.32 cents per kWh). 

Increased capacity

The UAE aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and trebling renewables capacity to 14.2GW by 2030 is a key plank of its strategy. It plans to invest $54 billion in the sector over the next seven years, to help reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent by the end of the decade.  

The UAE’s solar capacity increased from 0.6GW in 2018 to 2.7GW in 2021, the government said earlier this year, representing about 6 percent of total installed energy capacity.

“With just two weeks to go before the start of Cop28, I will be asking the world to unite and deliver the energy transition by tripling renewables capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030. Al Dhafra is an example of the scale of the ambition needed around the world,” added Al Jaber.