UAE: Abu Dhabi gears up for new solar incentive regime

In the run up to this new legislation, the United Arab Emirates Government is looking to gain experience through its Solar Roof Program of Abu Dhabi, a 500 megawatt (MW) pilot project, which will be implemented by the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC).

Although the Abu Dhabi region has very high levels of solar radiation, it also suffers from high humidity, and abundant dust and sand. In the pilot project, different photovolatics (PV) systems will be tested in order to determine the optimal plant size, selection of components and the installation angle under local conditions.

In preparation, ADDC employees have undertaken PV training at the Berlin-based Renewables Academy (RENAC). The curriculum included topics such as system design, installation, maintenance, monitoring, and network integration. “The workshop was really helpful for our engineers to meet the challenges of the Solar Roof Program, particularly because of its blended mix between theory and practical hands-on training,” said Jürgen Beigel, senior project manager for Abu Dhabi’s Solar Roof Program.

The ADDC engineers will monitor the installation and undertake the connection to the grid. RENAC has already trained many engineers and technicians from the Middle East region on planning optimally functioning solar thermal and PV systems under local conditions, together with their maintenance.

In an interview, the manager of the Solar Roof Program, Mohamed Al Attas explained: “The Solar Roof Program is a government sponsored financial incentive program designed to make the use of solar photovoltaics on rooftops more affordable to Abu Dhabi consumers.

“It shall trigger the implementation, ownership and operation of PV installations by private individuals, companies and other entities. The program shall stimulate the growth of local industries, business, jobs and skills in the solar PV sector in Abu Dhabi. The overall balance of the program shows a positive economical result for Abu Dhabi. The program is designed for a 500 MW PV on roof tops within 20 years.”

When asked if he believed photovoltaics had a chance in Abu Dhabi in consideration of its burgeoning oil industry, he replied: “The solar roof program is a further step to reach the targets of UAE and Abu Dhabi. ?The long term targets of UAE are: seven percent share of Renewable Energies in UAE 2020 (corresponds to 1,500 MW capacity of Renewable Energies); and gradually increasing revenues from Renewable Energy business. Furthermore, UAE aims to be leading by example and leading by adopting. Another important goal is to create local content regarding know-how, skills and qualification, intellectual property and setting up industries."

Mr. Attas added: "Therefore we have to meet various challenges. Electricity in Abu Dhabi is cheap and subsidized. We have no pressing energy security issues and no need for fuel diversification. Regulations to support embedded/distributed Generation such as PV do not exist. A lack of consumer awareness and education on issues of energy efficiency and alternative energy is also prejudicial to the implementation of RE. In terms of meteorological conditions, we have a high solar irradiation, but also high humidity, dust and sandstorms. Abu Dhabi is concentrating now on attracting investments and creating jobs in the higher value-added upstream, R&D and manufacturing segments of the PV value chain."