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Abu Dhabi’s Dh3.2 billion (~$870 million) solar power plant started its commercial operation on the evening of the capital’s climate meeting on Sunday. The Emirates Water and Electricity Company announced the 8 square kilometer, 3.2 million solar panel Noor Abu Dhabi power plant as the world’s single largest solar project.

Noor in Arabic means light, something which the new solar power project in Abu Dhabi will make plentiful use of to brighten up people’s homes. As part of the country’s initiative towards better energy security, the Noor Abu Dhabi solar power plant will produce approximately 1.2 gigawatts of electricity that can cover the demand of 90,000 people.

The capital’s reliance on the use of natural gas for electricity generation will be considerably reduced resulting in a carbon footprint reduction of 1 million metric tons per year, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. EWEC also announced that the project broke the record for the world’s most competitive tariff at 8.888 fils/kWh, the fils being a subdivision of the dirham currency (like cent is to dollar) which at present equates to about 0.024 usd/kWh or 2.4 cents/kWh.

The plant will offset the emirate’s C02 emissions by 1 million metric tons, effectively taking 200,000 cars off the roads. With 3.2 million solar panels installed across an 8 square kilometre site, Noor Abu Dhabi is the world’s single largest solar project.

It will provide enough power to meet the equivalent demand of 90,000 people.

The Dh3.2 billion plant, located at Sweihan in Abu Dhabi, is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Power Corporation and a consortium of Japan’s Marubeni Corp and China’s Jinko Solar Holding. At the time of bid submission the project attracted the world’s most competitive power tariff of 8.888 fils/kWh.

By contrast, the Solar Star power plant in Rosamond, California, commissioned in 2015 is the United States’ biggest solar project spread over an area of 13 km square that uses 1.7 million solar panels to generate 579 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to powering 255,000 homes. The difference in the ratio of power output to equivalent home figures can likely be attributed to the average household power consumption differences between the two countries, among other factors.

The Noor Abu Dhabi plant is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Government and a consortium of Japan’s Marubeni Corp and China’s Jinko Solar Holding. “The completion of the project marks a significant milestone in the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, launched in 2017, to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix to 50% by 2050 while reducing the carbon footprint of power generation by 70%,” said Mohammad Hassan Al Suwaidi, Chairman of EWEC.

“We are very pleased to deliver the world’s largest solar PV independent power project into full commercial operations within budget and on schedule, and we appreciate the leadership of EWEC and the support of our other business partners in this achievement,” said Yoshiaki Yokota, Marubeni Corp COO of the Power Business Division, further noting that “this project represents a significant milestone not only for the United Arab Emirates and the region, but for the global solar industry and for the future of renewable energy.”

Jinko Solar’s CEO, Kangping Chen was also proud of the teamwork effort and achievement. “We are thankful to the government team for creating a world-class tender programme, their high-level of professionalism and their strong support throughout the process,” adding that this project “wouldn’t be where it is without the seamless collaboration among our partners and other stakeholders. We are grateful for such wonderful teamwork.”

Although the country is still mostly oil dependent, important developments like this would ultimately have a positive impact on global emissions and shows the intent of transitioning towards a sustainable future through renewable energy.

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