First Solar to provide EPC for 52.5 MW Jordan solar plant

U.S. thin film giants First Solar has announced today that it will build, operate and maintain the 52.5 MW Shams Ma’an Power Plant in Jordan.

The project has already secured a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO), which acts as Jordan’s chief power generation and distribution authority. Kawar Group, a local developer, partnered with First Solar on the development of the Shams Ma’an Power Plant, with First Solar divesting its stake in the project to a consortium of investors, including Diamond Generating Europe Ltd., – a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation; Nebras Power Q.S.C., – a subsidiary of the Qatar Electricity & Water Company, and the Kawar Group.

First Solar has committed to supporting foreign investment in renewable energy throughout Jordan, and revealed its pride in being given the opportunity to leverage its experience in project development to deliver a new solar asset to the country.

"Sham Ma’an has already established a new benchmark for the independent production of renewable energy in the region, demonstrating how the selection of the right technology and service providers creates a considerable value, which, in turn, helps attract experienced institutional investors," said First Solar’s president for the Middle East, Ahmed S. Nada. "We now look forward to delivering a world-class power plant that will directly contribute to efforts to address the country’s urgent energy needs."

Once complete, Jordan will boast the largest solar PV plant in the Middle East as the country looks to diversify its power generation mix in an effort to bolster its energy security and independence. The project forms part of the Ma’an Development Area, which is a gentrification project located in the south of the country that will generate some 500 jobs and begin early next year. The completion date is set for 2016, at which point the project hopes to deliver 160 million kWh of electricity per year – the equivalent of 1% of Jordan’s annual energy output.

First Solar’s technical director for the Middle East, Matthew Merfert, spoke of how the Sham Ma’an Power Plant project has been optimized to deliver low-cost, high-energy performance particular to the country’s unique climate.

"What matters most to Jordan is the amount of energy produced at low cost," Merfert said. "Our advance thin film modules will yield up to 8% more energy than an array or plant of the same power output rating using silicon-based modules, due to the high temperatures on site.

"Additionally, the First Solar Tracker will allow the plant to generate over 20% more energy than a fixed mounting system."

First Solar has enjoyed previous success in constructing a large-scale solar project in the region, having completed the first phase of a 13 MW plant in Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashin Al Maktoum Solar Park in October 2013. The plant was connected to the emirate’s grid just 195 days after breaking ground.

Jordan currently imports approximately 96% of its electricity, and has targeted the installation of 600 MW of solar PV capacity by 2020. Following First Solar’s announcement, Jordan appears on track to reach its target – according to a USAID report there will be one engineer per 83 inhabitants by 2020, one of the highest engineers-per-capita ratios in the world. Combined with some of the best irradiation levels on the planet, Jordan could well achieve its goal of becoming the solar hub for the Middle East region sooner rather than later.