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Abu Dhabi debuts the world's largest single-site solar power plant

Abu Dhabhi will now hold the distinction of hosting the world's largest single-site solar power plant, a feat it has achieved ahead of the UAE hosting the UN climate change conference, COP28.

The Al Dhafra solar farm, . It is a 2-gigawatt (GW) facility situated 22 miles (35 km) from Abu Dhabi and was inaugurated on November 17. The plant is jointly owned by clean energy firm Masdar, Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA), EDF Renewables from France, and JinkoPower from China, as well as electricity procurer Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC).

The plant is outfitted with almost 4 million bi-facial solar panels and is estimated to provide enough power to power nearly 200,000 households while displacing 2.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. "This world-leading solar project demonstrates remarkable progress in solar power efficiency, innovation, and cost competitiveness - setting a new record-low tariff," said Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, in a statement

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Large scale project

The Al Dhafra solar park was built in a single phase, covers more than 20 square km of desert, and created more than 4,500 jobs during the peak building period. 

The facility hosts around 4 million solar panels using the most advanced crystalline, bifacial solar technology, allowing it to deliver more efficient power by absorbing solar irradiation from both the front and rear of the panel. This large-scale plant is expected to cut Abu Dhabi's Abu CO2 emissions by more than 2.4 million metric tonnes per year, equivalent to removing approximately 470,000 cars from the road.

The project also broke cost records for utility-scale solar projects. Initially, the project resulted in one of the most competitive solar electricity tariffs of AED 4.97 fils/kWh (1.35 cents/kWh), which was later improved to AED 4.85 fils/kWh ($1.32 cents) when the project started commercial operations. The project has already begun supplying energy to the grid.

Clean energy

Within fewer than fifteen years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a prominent force in the field of solar energy. In 2009, Masdar inaugurated the nation's inaugural solar project, boasting a capacity of 10MW. The country is now ranked second globally in per capita solar energy usage.

Leveraging its potential in renewable energy sources, the initiative emphasizes the UAE's role in driving global growth in this sector, aligning with the leadership's commitment to promoting clean technologies and renewable energy solutions on a large scale. Such an initiative further strengthens global climate action efforts and moves the UAE Net Zero 2050 initiative forward.

Also, the news of the plant's opening is especially significant because it coincides with the country's preparations to host the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), a global climate event. "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," said Awaidha Murshed Al Marar, Chairman of the Department of Energy in Abu Dhabi, in a statement. 

Aiding in this transition to renewable sources for generating electricity, EWEC has just commissioned the development of two additional solar power projects of the same size and scale as Al Dhafra Solar PV, bringing Abu Dhabi to four of the world's largest solar power plants. Furthermore, it plans to commission the development of an additional 1GW of new solar power energy projects in Abu Dhabi every year for the next ten years as part of its strategic plan to rapidly accelerate energy decarbonization, ensuring the UAE is a global leader in solar power, and advancing the nation's economic development and diversification towards its net-zero goal.

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