US group to build world’s largest solar farm in Oman

A US company ‘GlassPoint Solar’ specialising in the manufacturing of solar steam generators, for the oil and gas industry, recently informed that it has got plans for a solar power station in Oman, possibly the world’s largest.

On completion, Miraah project, a partnership between Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and a consortium of Omani government agencies and Shell, Total and Partex should be producing 1,021 MW of peak thermal energy, said the US Company in a statement.

Miraah will use concentrating sunlight to generate 6,000 tons of solar steam each day.  The steam will feed directly to PDO’s existing thermal enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations, providing a substantial portion of the steam required at the Amal oilfield in south Oman.

The mega project that will break ground in late 2015 with steam generation from the first glasshouse module projected beginning in 2017, will dwarf all previous solar EOR installations by being more than 100 times larger than the pilot project built by GlassPoint for PDO in 2012.

And by using solar energy, Miraah will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300,000 tons, savings equivalent of removing 63,000 cars from the roads.

UAE and Qatar solar power projects

Experts in the field say these days that with Solar Costs falling, the GCC Governments should speed up innovative projects especially now that oil and gas prices have reduced revenues quite substantially.

As part of its energy diversification goals for 2030, Dubai launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in 2012.  The park began with a 13MW solar PV plant in 2013 and aims to generate 1,000 MW by mid-2017.

Meanwhile the Qatar Solar Energy company launched a solar-panel factory last year, which has the ability to generate 300mw of energy annually.  It plans to eventually produce 2.5GW of solar energy annually.

Other Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are also eyeing major solar power projects to diversify their energy mix and capitalise on the sunny weather conditions in the region.

Morocco solar power stations

A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power International has won a $2 billion contract to build two solar power plants totalling 350 megawatts in south Morocco, as announced by the Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN) early this year.

The two plants are the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project, which is part of a government plan to produce 2 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, equivalent to about 38% of Morocco’s current installed generation capacity.

ACWA Power is already building a 160 MW plant in the first stage of the project in the area with the plants scheduled to starting power generation in 2017.

The second phase of the project aims to develop two new power stations in the Solar Power Complex, with a total capacity of around 350MW and average estimated cumulative production of over 1,100GWh per year.

The project is part of the Moroccan Solar Energy Programme (NOOR), which aims to develop minimum capacity of 2,000MW by 2020 in order to secure power supplies.  Morocco currently depends on external sources for 95% of its primary energy needs.  The country’s energy consumption increased by an average of 7.2% between 2002 and 2012. Looking ahead to 2030, Morocco’s demand for primary energy is expected to triple, whilst demand for electricity is set to quadruple.  The country has made securing its power supply a priority.

Middle East and North African Desertec

On the other hand, Desertec’s ambitious project to harness and export solar power generated in Middle East and North African deserts was launched last year but is facing some difficulties.

The multi-billion renewable energy project, founded in Germany to much acclaim five years ago, was aimed at providing up to 15% of Europe’s power by 2050 from solar and wind parks in North Africa and the Middle East.  The basic idea is to fundamentally capitalise on the desert sun, which it optimistically believes could “provide more power in six hours than mankind could use in a year”.

But, industry analysts highlighted the fact that northern African states carried significant political risks and warned that at an expected cost of $506 billion the project was too expensive to be practical.  Moreover and because of Europe have already launched its own solar power schemes in the recent past, hence raising questions about the need for imports.

As a result, a number of major shareholders such as Siemens, Bosch, E.ON and Bilfinger had lately decided to abandon the project.  Former shareholders include also Deutsche Bank, Insurer & Reinsurer Munich Re and Swiss conglomerate ABB.

“Costs were very high and some companies said we’re not that interested in the Middle East and North Africa,” Desertec Chief Executive Paul van Son told journalists, trying to explain why so many shareholders had left.