Covid-19 reportedly delays prospect of solar power world record

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While solar developers grapple with the effects of Covid-19 on their supply chains, personnel and project timelines, a report yesterday indicated the effect the novel coronavirus could have on electricity users.

Hopes were high the bidding process planned in Abu Dhabi yesterday for the 1.5 GW Al-Dhafra solar field would set a new world record low price for solar electricity. However, business website Energy & Utilities reported the event had been postponed because of restrictions on public gatherings applied to combat the contagion in the United Arab Emirates.

Originally tendered as a 2 GW project, the huge facility tendered by the Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) for a site at Adhafra, 50km east of Abu Dhabi, was referred to as a 1.5 GW plan by the chairman of the emirate’s Department of Energy in an interview with pv magazine last month.

A record solar power price?

Awaidha Murshed Al Marar would not be drawn on the final tariff expected for the energy to be generated by the vast site when interviewed by pv magazine editor Jonathan Gifford as the bid process was still in train. When asked whether the project would generate power for less than $0.01/kWh, the chairman replied: “I can assure you it will be breaking the record worldwide”.

If true, that would mean the winning bidder among the five consortia competing for the tender would have been expected to undershoot the €0.0147/kWh ($0.0159239) lodged in a public auction in Portugal in July.

However, it appears the world will have to wait a little longer to learn the results of an exercise which was due to be completed by the end of the month.

Contenders

With a reported 48 expressions of interest received from developers for the project – which would be 40% owned by the developer and 60% by the Abu Dhabi Power Corporation and unspecified state entities under Emirati infrastructure ownership rules – Energy & Utilities reported original bids had been received from five consortia in November. According to the energy website, those joint bids came from Saudi fossil fuel giant ACWA Power and Chinese utility Shanghai Electric; French power company EDF with Chinese developer Jinko Power; French utility Engie plus Saudi engineering, procurement and construction business Al Fanar; Japan’s SoftBank Energy and Italian power company Eni; and French oil major Total with Japan’s Marubeni Corp. Revised bid proposals were submitted at the start of the month and were due to be revealed yesterday, according to Energy & Utilities.

The 20km2 site is scheduled to be operational within two years although that timetable may have to be concerned in light of the Covid-19 fallout.