The Trough Unit No. 1 facility of Shanghai Electric’s 700MW solar thermal and 250MW photovoltaic solar power plant in Dubai successfully achieved grid-connected electricity generation on November 29 (Dubai Time), marking a significant milestone along the path of the company’s entry into the renewable energy sector. Shanghai Electric is a global leader in the development of solar thermal and photovoltaic power plants. The plant is already producing top-notch technical characteristics and reliable functioning of both the primary and auxiliary equipment. As a result, environmentally friendly solar thermal energy is being distributed to nearby communities for the very first time.
This project is the fourth phase of the solar thermal and PV power plant that is being developed by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority in Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (MBR) Solar Park. Shanghai Electric Group is the contractor for this project. One of the most important objectives on Shanghai Electric’s globalization plan has been achieved now that the facility has been connected to the grid. The project is a demonstration model for the Chinese government’s Belt and Road initiative as well as efforts to achieve global carbon neutrality. It is built on the world-leading tower and leverages trough solar thermal power generation technologies to overcome the limitation that conventional PV power stations cannot generate electricity at night.
In order to make the most efficient use of the property, the 250 MW of photovoltaic modules have been scattered throughout underused areas. Meanwhile, the 700 MW solar thermal facility is made up of three 200 MW trough units and one 100 MW tower unit. It covers an area of 44 square kilometers, which is approximately 17 square miles and is roughly equivalent to slightly over 6,000 normal soccer fields or 100 Tiananmen Squares. This makes it the largest solar photovoltaic plant that is operating independently anywhere in the world.
The project makes use of around 560,000 tons of molten salt and approximately 70,000 heliostats, each of which is approximately 25 square meters. The amount of earthwork necessary for site leveling in the desert amounted to about 40 million cubic meters. This is equivalent in volume to 41 “Water Cubes,” which is the well-known aquatics center at the Olympic Green in Beijing, or to the amount of sand and gravel that was used to construct two of the artificial islands that are supporting the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.
The plant is the tallest tower solar thermal project in the world and stands at a height of 262 meters (about 860 ft). In addition to this, it offers the world’s largest slot opening technology that is used in commercial operations, with an opening distance of 8.2 meters. Through its operation, the plant eliminates the need to consume 2 million tons of conventional coal on an annual basis. It is the largest solar thermal project in the world due to the combination of all of these elements, including the installed capacity, the magnitude of the investment, and the molten salt reserve heat.
Its location in the middle of the desert, where daytime temperatures can soar to close to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), combined with the impact of the pandemic, among other factors, led to the project encountering several difficulties during construction. These difficulties included rising costs across the board (of which costs for raw materials witnessed the steepest increases), delays in shipping, supply chain challenges to the fabrication of equipment, and a severe staffing shortage.
The project department was able to accomplish this significant milestone by coming up with innovative solutions to a number of technical problems and by meticulously planning and preparing for the future. Once all of the units are operational, the energy that is stored in the trough units and the tower unit has the potential to generate power continuously for a maximum of 13.5 hours during the night and 15 hours during periods of bad weather. When the entire project is finished, it will bring Dubai a significant step closer to achieving its 2050 Clean Energy goal of supplying clean power to 320,000 local families and reducing annual carbon emissions by 1.6 million tons. These are the goals that are associated with the Clean Energy project.