PV plans abound, but Jordan can’’t rest on its laurels

Under its second solar auction, Jordan tendered 200 MW of new projects at record low feed-in tariff prices last week. Since then, news of more project plans and related events has been flooding in.

In a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on Sunday, May 24, the Al albays University and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources revealed their intention to build an 85 MW solar PV farm on land owned by the university. Around 120 million JOD (approximately US$169.4 million) is expected to be funneled into the project by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and private investors.

The MoU does not state if this is a net-metering project, as is often the case with most of Jordan’s PV installations at universities. Its size, however, indicates the generated power will be sold under a power purchase agreement (PPA) type of contract.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Solar, the only PV module manufacturer (120 MW manufacturing capacity) in Jordan and the Middle East region, has been awarded construction of a 1.6 MW rooftop project for the Al Zaytouna University.

“Philadelphia Solar had previously installed 162 kW of solar at Al-Zaytouna and we are proud to be selected again for this project,” said Mr. Abdel Rahman Shehadeh, Philadelphia’s Chairman. “Our relationship with the university is much stronger than a supplier-customer relationship. We have worked with the faculty on solar PV research and helped the university plan for its transition to a carbon-free campus,” he added.

Construction will commence within the next two months, a Philadelphia Solar spokesperson further told pv magazine.

Royal plans

On the same day Jordan’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced the winners of Jordan’s second PV tender, the country’s King also inaugurated a new 5.6 MW PV power plant at the premises of the Royal Court in the capital city Amman.

The project, completed in just eight months, will provide electricity for the Raghadan Palace, the Hussainiyah Palace, the Royal Automobile Museum and the Prophet Muhammad Museum. It is expected to have a payback period of between two to three years, a local source told pv magazine.

The Royal Court project as well as the Al Zaytouna University rooftop PV system are net metering projects, continued the source. However, because the 5.6 MW Royal Court project is far from where the electricity will be consumed, the “wheeling option is used, meaning that if you don’t have enough space at the location of demand, then you can install your PV farm away from the demand center, and pay the transmission fees and the losses in the transmission and distribution grids.”

Jordan’s net metering law has sprung a very active business in the country, while a renewable energy fund at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources has also helped many public sector institutions like, schools, hospitals and mosques to install rooftop photovoltaic systems.

Solar events

Local and international PV companies are not only busy planning and building Jordan’s solar PV projects. They are also attending the plethora of energy-related events taking place across the country. Just last week, there were three exhibition and conferences involving energy stakeholders.

Solar Near East Exhibition and Forum (Sonex 2015) ran from May 18 to 21, under the patronage of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Meanwhile, the Energy Economy and Energy Management Forum for the Middle East and the Northern Africa (EEEMF 2015) was held on May 18 and 19; and Jordan’s international energy summit took place on May 19 and 20.

International presence at the conferences, compared to previous years, notably increased, according to many attendees. Foreign companies, together with local ones, rushed to present their products and energy supply solutions competing for a place in the thriving Jordanian market. Energy discussions were also part of the programs.

Heavy lobbying

And this is exactly what Jordan’s solar PV sector needs. Last week’s solar PV FIT success and the net metering growth should not send the signal that solar energy’s battle in Jordan’s is won. The country needs desperately to diversify its energy mix, and break away from its independence on foreign power imports, which are around 97%.

Currently, the country’s officials are lobbied by some of the world’s largest energy corporations. Jordan’ International Energy Summit, for example, also included speakers from the oil and gas industries, while it was co-sponsored by the Jordan Oil Shale Company (JOSCO), a subsidiary of Shell. Furthermore, a recent article in the Jordan Times says the government has signed numerous letters of intent with various companies regarding huge fossil fuel projects.

As such, Jordan’s solar sector cannot afford to simply ride on its recent successes. On the contrary, it needs to step up its efforts and use the latest developments to convince the institutional set up that solar is the rational choice for the country’s current energy development, and future energy independence.

Edited by Becky Beetz