Birds eye view of a large solar plant

A New World Record for the Cheapest Solar Plant in the Land of Oil


Written by qualified solar engineer Aniket. Last updated:

Abu Dhabi, an oil rich country, is building the world’s largest solar plant. This is a great proof of the inevitable transition to solar. But it is not just the size of the solar plant that widens our eyes, it is also the price bid per unit of energy that breaks all records.

The Al Dhafra solar plant is a 2 GW plant expected to be completed in 2022. The plant has received a record-low bid at 1.35 US cents per kWh (On a levelized cost of electricity – LCOE basis).

The state-run Abu Dhabi Power Corporation (ADPower) will be purchasing this electricity when the plant is completed. The lowest bidder, among the total five, is the consortium of Chinese solar giant JinkoSolar and French energy company EDF.

Shifting to a Cleaner Future

For the longest time, Abu Dhabi has been a leader in oil reserves. Its embassy website mentions a staggering 92.2 billion barrels of oil in reserves. The last few years, however, have proved to be the dawn of solar power’s dominance in the nation’s energy landscape.

Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Plant (Source – Gulf News)

Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Plant (Source – Gulf News)

One of the examples is the Noor Abu Dhabi solar plant. At 1.2 GW, it is already the world’s current largest single solar plants, and also built by a partnership that includes JinkoSolar.

The Al Dhafra plant will power more than 150,000 homes and will prevent 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of removing 720,000 cars from the road. It will also more than double the country’s total solar capacity.

The Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC), a subsidiary of ADPower (Abu Dhabi Power Corp.), had invited bids last year for the project. Out of 48 EOIs, 24 were selected to bid, and 5 consortia placed bids last year. EDF + JinkoSolar’s bid at AED 4.97 fils/kWh, or USD 0.0135/kWh, stands the lowest and might continue to be so. For reference, this is 44% lower than Noor Abu Dhabi’s bid just three-years ago. This is a landmark for an energy source that has been considered expensive for a long time.

It is not just Abu Dhabi in the Middle East that can boast of its leap in solar power. In fact, as far as pricing goes, multiple countries have competed for the title of cheapest solar power. Notable among these are Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

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