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Last Updated:[10-08-2009 04:48:12 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Sandstorms Shrink UAE’s Solar Power Generation

tradenews The solar power production at the first and largest solar power plant of the UAE and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has been hit badly due to last week’s extreme sandstorm conditions. The week-long dust clouds around the Masdar plant had brought down the energy production by almost 40 percent, reported the authorities.

The $50mn solar photovoltaic (PV) plant that has been built and operated by solar firm Enviromena generates 10MW of clean energy for the Abu Dhabi municipal grid, and makes carbon savings of around 15,000 tons per year. The plant that got linked to the main grid in June comprises of 87,777 photovoltaic modules covering an area of about 23 hectares. It is expected to produce 17,500 MW of electricity per annum, enough to power some 8000 homes.

But the latest dust clouds that screened direct sunlight on to the PV panels are causing serious problems to the ambitious plant. The PV panels, thin-film variety supplied by the US-based First Solar and crystalline panels made by Suntech of China were able to produce just 60 percent of energy efficiently.

Though such snags were included during the feasibility study before installation of the plant, the dust formation in the atmosphere is said to have exceeded 10 times more than the normal dust build ups of the region. However, Director of Masdar, Khaled Awad said the plant’s panels had been cleaned up and output had become normal.

According to Masdar, it is looking at various options to overcome this barrier by installing automated cleaning devices and PV panel coatings, which will either eliminate or minimise dust settling on the panel surfaces. Solar power generation from the UAE is projected to produce 7 percent renewable energy target by 2020, perhaps, outdo the US and European targets by next decade or so.

Nevertheless, the plant authorities confirmed that the setback would not hamper the future of the solar power generation of the country. The Masdar plant is one of the most cost-efficient PV installations in the world in terms of its projected power output.

By Jose Roy

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