Located in the open desert about 100km east of Abu Dhabi, Noor Abu Dhabi is, with an area of eight square kilometres, the world’s largest single-site solar plant.
Its name translates in English to "light of Abu Dhabi".
Part of the emirate’s ambitious plan to generate seven per cent of its energy through renewable sources by 2020, the plant represents a collaboration between Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC), and two private solar energy plant developers, Marubeni Corp (Japan) and JinkoSolar Holding (China).
The two foreign investors were part of a competitive global bidding process that saw the project brought in on time and budget (USD $870 million or AED 3.2 billion).
“Our partners are investors in the project and will be involved in the long term,” says Adel Al Saeedi, who led the project. “We were able to offer the assurance of a buyer for every single electron generated by this plant for the next 25 years. It’s also a cross-cultural partnership with companies from Japan, China and Abu Dhabi working together for a common goal.”
EWEC’s first foray into renewable energy, the project is also part of Abu Dhabi Department of Energy’s contribution to the UAE’s overall Energy Strategy 2050. This plan aims to increase the amount of clean energy in the total energy mix to 50 per cent, while reducing the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 per cent.
Noor Abu Dhabi generates 1,177 megawatts, or enough to power 90,000 homes, and offsets one million tons of CO2 emissions annually. On the back of its success, a second plant almost double the size is currently in development in Al Dafra and slated to begin operations in 2022.
“Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV) energy isn’t just good for the environment; it also makes economic sense,” says Al Saeedi “The energy from Noor goes into the network and is replacing energy from conventional natural gas-fired plants, so it reduces the cost of the whole sector.”
The number of foreign-owned businesses in Abu Dhabi is sharply on the rise, and there are now 122 economic activities across 13 sectors in which 100 per cent foreign ownership is welcomed, including renewable energy, space, agriculture, manufacturing, transport, logistics, hospitality, food services, information and communications.