Work has begun in the oil and gas-rich emirate of Dubai on construction of the world’s biggest solar tower and storage plant – the first stage of a 700MW facility that will feature a 260m high tower.
The project was officially launched by Dubai’s ruler Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Saturday, and the first stage is due to be completed in 2020 by Saudi-based firm ACWA Power and China Shanghai Electric.
The solar tower is being built in the same complex that will also feature what will be – for a short while – the world’s cheapest solar PV array, being built at a cost of just $US29.90/MWh ($A36/MWh) (also by ACWA Power).
The solar tower facility also sets a record low for that technology of $US73/MWh ($A91/MWh).
This compares with the $A75/MWh being paid by the South Australia government for a 150MW tower to be built near Port Augusta by US company SolarReserve, although that price is complicated by the buying and selling of power on the wholesale market.
It is thought that the technology cost of the Port Augusta project, which will feature a 226m tower, is above $A100/MWh.
“The UAE has succeeded in building a global green economy model based on the environmental sustainability and clean energy and supported by clear plans,” Shaikh Mohammad said in a statement.
“Implementing the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) project reaffirms the UAE’s leadership in renewable clean energy all over the world and enhances our status at the forefront of the most advanced countries in this field.
“We are steadily moving towards achieving Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 goals, which we have launched to turn Dubai into a global hub for clean energy and green economy and become the lowest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.”
The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 program aims to provide seven per cent of Dubai’s power through clean energy by 2020, 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.
The Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park will have a capacity of 1,000MW by 2020 and 5,000MW by 2030.
It is by no means the only large-scale solar tower being built around the world at the moment. SolarReserve is building another plant in South Africa, and other companies are building plant in Morocco, Chile and China.
Keith Lovegrove, director of the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association, recently returned from a conference in China, where he says the main news is that of 20 announced projects of between 50 and 100MW, three are well under construction and a further five will begin soon.
“The attached pic is a visit to the Shouhang 10MW molten salt tower system there in Dunhuang,” he says.
You can hear a recent Energy Insiders podcast featuring Lovegrove that focuses on solar tower technologies.
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.