After constructing the world’s first 3D printed office in just 17 days, the emirate of Dubai has taken on a new challenge: to create the world largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant. If successful, Dubai will take away the title from Las Vegas’s Ivanpah solar power facility, which has a capacity of 392 megawatts. Morocco’s Ouarzazate plant, which currently has a CSP with capacity of 150 megawatts and was projected to be the world’s largest, with a capacity of 580 megawatts slated by 2018.
Unlike conventional solar panels, CSPs are designed circular rings of solar mirrors or lenses. The mirrors concentrate and direct the sunlight to a central tower. The tower then uses the collected energy to melt salt and power a steam turbine which can generate electricity, even when the sun is not shining.
The first phase of the project already began operations in October 2013. The second phase, which will have a capacity of 200 megawatts, is expected to be finished by April 2017. The third phase will add another 800 megawatts. The project aims to produce 1,000 megawatts by 2020 and an astounding 5,000 megawatts by 2030.
Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) announced in an official statement published by AlBawaba that the plant will be comprised of five facilities, all within the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. Completion of the CSP is projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 6.5 million tons per annum.
To ensure the lowest prices, the authority has requested solar companies to submit their tender offers, adding that it received prices as low as $2.99 per kilowatt or $0.08 per kilowatt hour for the project’s third phase, making it the cheapest solar electricity generated in the world. Currently, electricity costs for residential users in Dubai is up to $0.10 per kilowatt hour.
The project comes in light of the new Dubai Clean Energy Strategy, which aims to bring the power output from clean energy sources to 7% by 2020. The strategy also seeks to increase the aforementioned figure to 25% by 2030 and to 75% by 2050. According to the managing director and CEO of DEWA Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, by 2030, Dubai is hoping to have “an environmentally-friendly energy [production] mix,” composed of 25% solar energy, 7% nuclear energy, 7% from clean coal and the remaining 61% from gas.