Hazza bin Zayed Inaugurates Al Dhafra Solar PV Project

His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi, in the presence of His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, has inaugurated the 2GW Al Dhafra Solar PV project, the world’s largest single-site solar power plant, ahead of the UAE hosting the UN climate change conference (COP28). The project was also inaugurated by Masdar and its partners Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA), EDF Renewables and JinkoPower, together with procurer Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC).

His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan reaffirmed that the UAE, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, is proceeding with its strategic plans to enhance its energy security by implementing a diverse range of flexible energy generation that is contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions, while also advancing the economy.

His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “As the UAE prepares to host COP28, this pioneering project reflects the country’s ongoing commitment to raising its share of clean energy, reducing its carbon emissions and supporting the global efforts on climate action. We are witnessing, day after day, project after project, that the UAE is at the global forefront of developing and adopting innovative clean energy solutions. We are achieving energy security, while also contributing to building a bright future for future generations to come.”

Located 35 kilometres from Abu Dhabi City, the landmark solar plant was built in a single phase and generates enough electricity to power almost 200,000 homes, displacing 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Al Dhafra Solar PV spans more than 20 square kilometres of desert and created 4,500 jobs during the peak of the construction phase. It uses almost 4 million solar panels which deploy innovative bi-facial technology, ensuring sunlight is captured on both sides of the panels to maximise yield.

In less than 15 years, the UAE has become a global leader in solar energy. In 2009, Masdar switched on the country’s first solar project at 10MW, Al Dhafra Solar PV represents a plant that is 200 times that size. As the countdown to COP28 in the UAE begins, this mega project initially achieved the world’s lowest tariff at financial close, and demonstrates the country’s longstanding commitment to decarbonisation, at home and around the world.  The UAE is also a world leader in solar energy use, according to the latest data from The Energy Institute Statistical Review of World Energy, ranking second globally in terms of per capita solar energy consumption. In under a decade, the country has surpassed leading nations by installing solar energy, as part of the country’s energy diversification.

His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan listened to a detailed explanation from His Excellency Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, and a number of Masdar employees about the project, its strategic importance, and its role in enhancing national energy security.

His Excellency Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, said, “Al Dhafra is part of a long and proud history of energy innovation, made possible thanks to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE. This world-leading solar project demonstrates remarkable progress in solar power efficiency, innovation and cost competitiveness – setting a new record-low tariff. To create Al Dhafra, Masdar brought together three partners from around the world: TAQA, EDF of France and JinkoPower of China. With just days 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.”

The delivery of the project was made possible after global energy leaders formed a strategic partnership and harnessed their combined expertise. Al Dhafra Solar PV, planned and procured by EWEC, has broken records in terms of cost for utility-scale solar projects. Initially, the project led to one of the most competitive tariffs for solar power set at AED4.97 fils/kWh, which upon financial close, was further improved to AED4.85 fils/kWh.

The ceremony was attended by His Excellency Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure; His Excellency Mohamed Hassan Alsuwaidi, UAE Minister of Investment and Deputy Chairman of Masdar; His Excellency Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer of Mubadala; His Excellency Engineer Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Energy; His Excellency Jabr Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Minister of State; His Excellency Zhang Yiming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the UAE; Jasim Husain Thabet, TAQA’s Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director; Othman Al Ali, Chief Executive Officer of EWEC; Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar; Bruno Bensasson, EDF Group Senior Executive, Vice-President of Renewable Energies and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EDF Renewables; and Charles Bai, President of JinkoPower International Business.

His Excellency Engineer Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, affirmed that the inauguration of the Al Dhafra Solar PV project marks a new and strategic step that enhances the UAE and Abu Dhabi’s position in the clean and renewable energy sector. It also underscores their active role in driving global growth in this sector, aligning with the wise leadership’s commitment to promoting clean technologies and renewable energy solutions on a broad scale, as well as strengthening global efforts in climate action and advancing the implementation of the UAE Net Zero 2050.

His Excellency Awaidha Murshed Al Marar said: “The project contributes to creating opportunities for sustainable economic and social growth, while simultaneously achieving a balance between sustainable development and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It will also promote the creation of a knowledge-based economy, harness clean technology and create a diversified mix of energy sources.

“The announcement of the plant’s inauguration is of special significance as it coincides with the country’s preparations to host the global climate event, the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28). This further strengthens the national efforts aimed at producing photovoltaic solar energy at a competitive cost, providing substantial support for Abu Dhabi’s commitment to diversify clean and renewable energy sources, as well as the strategies and policies of the Department of Energy in this regard.”

Jasim Husain Thabet, TAQA’s Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director said, “TAQA is very proud to have played a central role with our partners in delivering the world’s largest single-site solar PV plant, our second major solar plant in the UAE. With COP28 fast approaching, the 2GW Al Dhafra PV project shows the world what can be achieved through a commitment to partnership and technological progress. With a portfolio including two of the world’s largest solar projects and as the provider of grid connections, TAQA is at the heart of driving the transformation to a cleaner and more sustainable power sector. As a global integrated utility company championing low-carbon power and water, we are focused on working with partners to deliver affordable, secure and sustainable energy and water to communities across the UAE and beyond.”

Othman Al Ali, Chief Executive Officer of EWEC, said: “EWEC is the leading entity in the region transitioning energy production to renewable and clean energy sources, and the inauguration of Al Dhafra Solar PV, the new world’s largest single-site solar power plant, is a key step on this important journey. Alongside Noor Abu Dhabi, Al Dhafra Solar PV raises EWEC’s solar energy production capacity while also significantly decreasing carbon emissions associated with electricity production. We have also recently commissioned the development of two additional solar power projects of the same size and scale as Al Dhafra Solar PV, which will proudly make Abu Dhabi home to four of the largest solar power plants in the world. Furthermore, we expect to commission the development of an additional 1GW of new solar power energy projects in Abu Dhabi every year for the next 10 years as part of our strategic plan to rapidly accelerate the decarbonisation of energy production, ensuring the UAE is a global leader in solar power and advancing the nation’s economic development and diversification towards its net-zero goal.”

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, said: “The inauguration is a proud moment for Masdar, the UAE and our strategic partners, who have been instrumental in our shared success. Developing the world’s largest single-site solar power plant is a milestone achievement that requires vision, partnership and a pioneering spirit. For over 17 years, Masdar has been spearheading renewable energy projects in the UAE and around the world. As the UAE’s clean energy powerhouse, we are active in countries all around the world. We have ambitions to grow to 100 GW by 2030. As the world looks for ways to accelerate the energy transition, Al Dhafra Solar PV stands as a world-class example of how we can work together to build a greener, cleaner future.”

Bruno Bensasson, EDF Group Senior Executive Vice-President of Renewable Energies and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EDF Renewables, said: “We are very honoured that this unique large-scale solar power plant is inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan. This key milestone would not have been possible without the full support provided by the UAE Government and authorities, the Department of Energy, and in particular our client EWEC, and without the outstanding commitment shown by the project team, partners and contractors. At the forefront of COP28, EDF is proud to support the UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative. EDF is convinced that to build a carbon-neutral future while preserving economic development and social prosperity the world needs to, progressively but faster, develop towards a mix of low CO2 emissions solutions. This mix of solutions should include renewable energies of course but also energy efficiency, nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage as well as clean hydrogen. This way we will combine the needs of energy producers and energy consumers, of richer and poorer countries, of economy and ecology.”

Charles Bai, President of Jinko Power International Business, said: “This manifests a critical milestone achieved for the world’s largest single-site and single-phase solar power plant. We are grateful to the Government of Abu Dhabi, Ministry of Energy, EWEC and our partners as well as other stakeholders for their incredible support and commitment that makes today a day of long memory and a record of the world’s renewable energy history. JinkoPower is proud of delivering another world record-breaking solar power project to the emirate after our successful delivery of Noor Abu Dhabi project despite tremendous challenging circumstances arising from the global pandemic. The inauguration demonstrates once again the robust auction programmes designed and executed by the Government of Abu Dhabi. We remain fully committed to continuing our contribution to the goal of carbon neutrality to Abu Dhabi and the world.”

TAQA owns 40 per cent of the project, Masdar owns 20 per cent while the remaining partners, EDF Renewables and Jinko Power, own a 20 per cent stake each. The plant will supply power to the procurer EWEC – following the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed in 2020 – and will raise Abu Dhabi’s solar power production capacity to 3.2 GW.

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