The GCC is set to see a wave of investment in renewable power over the next couple of years, as the region’s governments implement their sustainable development agendas. Each of the six member states now have definite plans in the pipeline and the past couple of months in particular, have seen an increase in activity in the renewable power projects market.

Kuwait is progressing plans to build a $650m solar power plant as part of its public-private partnership programme. A site for the facility is being studied in the Abdaleyah area in eastern Kuwait, and a final selection is due to be made by mid-July. According to government officials, the Partnerships Technical Bureau wants to issue a tender to build the plant by the end of the year. It is expected to be an integrated solar power plant with a capacity of 250MW.

Pilot projects

In June, Bahrain received eight bids for the consultancy contract for a 5MW pilot plant, following an invitation for expressions of interest. The selected adviser will conduct a feasibility study for renewable energy in the country and will also advise on the pilot project, which is expected to be a hybrid solar and wind facility.

Oman, meanwhile, is expected to make a decision on the site for a solar project by the end of June, having appointed advisers in September 2009. The scheme is expected to use a combination of photovoltaic solar and either parabolic trough or solar tower technology, and have a capacity of 50-200MW.

Elsewhere, Finnish consultancy firm Poyry was in June appointed to prepare a renewable and nuclear energy strategy for Saudi Arabia. The client is King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, which was established under an April 2010 royal decree to serve as a centre for renewables research and to coordinate national energy policy. It will be headquartered in Riyadh.

Earlier this year, the kingdom also started up its first solar facility – a 2MW roof-mounted photovoltaic solar plant at the $2.6bn King Abdullah University of Science & Technology. The unit was designed by Germany’s Conergy and installed by the local National Solar Systems.

The $12bn Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University for Girls, currently under construction, will also use solar technologies. In January, the UK’s Millennium Energy Industries was awarded a contract to design and build a solar district hot-water system for the university, which will have a student population of about 40,000.

The solar plant will comprise 35,000 square metres of roof-mounted solar collectors, with a 17MW hot water capacity and is due to be commissioned at the end of this year. Also in Saudi Arabia, state energy giant Saudi Aramco is looking to build small-scale solar power pilot facilities with capacities of 1-2MW, having signed a deal with Japan’s Showa Shell Solar at the end of 2009.

UAE on top

But by far the most significant activity on the renewables front has been seen in Abu Dhabi, which is now renowned the world over as a centre for renewable energy as a result of its multibillion-dollar plans to build a carbon-neutral city.

In June, the company behind the city, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) awarded a contract to build the Gulf’s first large-scale solar power project. France’s Total and Spain’s Abengoa will build a $600m solar power plant in the emirate’s Western Region. The facility will have a capacity of 100MW and is expected to offset the equivalent of 175,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year when it starts up in 2013.

Masdar is planning to build two further solar plants on a similar scale. It commissioned a 10MW photovoltaic pilot plant in June 2009.

The firm’s other plans include geothermal power, hydrogen energy and biosolid projects. The hydrogen project has been subject to lengthy delays due to wranglings over offtake agreements for the carbon dioxide and power produced at the plant.

A construction contract for the $2bn scheme is now only expected to be tendered in the third quarter of 2010. The project is a 60:40 joint venture with the UK’s BP as majority shareholder and the hydrogen produced will be used to generate 400MW of power.

Compared with Europe and the US, the Gulf has been slow to embrace renewable technologies, despite having the most intense solar radiation levels in the world. The GCC states receive up to 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, compared with Germany, which only gets about 600 hours.

In the past, the region’s governments have preferred to focus on exploiting their abundant hydrocarbon reserves to produce low-cost supplies of electricity, rather than experimenting with costly unproven technology.

Solar plants are currently unable to produce power in the quantities demanded by the rapidly growing populations of the Gulf, which is resulting in electricity consumption growing by up to 14 per cent a year in some countries.

However, technological improvements and tightening gas supplies means renewable energies are finally being given serious attention, and the potential applications for renewables in the region are immense, Qatar is even studying solar-powered desalination plants.

New opportunities

Renewable subsidies in Europe are expected to face severe cuts in the years ahead, as governments implement their austerity measures in the wake of the global financial crisis. Spain, in particular, is reported to be considering reducing solar subsidies by up to 45 per cent, prompting concerns over the future of the industry in the country.

The recent increase in activity in the Gulf will come as welcome news for the sector and any renewable energy projects being tendered in the region should meet with plenty of interest.

But as the Masdar offtake problems have demonstrated, the key to successful implementation of renewables schemes will be well structured and attractive purchase agreements.

MEED Quality Awards for Projects 2011: Sustainable Project of the Year

MEED’s Sustainable Project of the Year 2011 will be awarded to projects that have demonstrated sustainability throughout the planning and execution of the development

The winning project will have embraced sustainability through impact studies in the social and natural environment, training and human resources, and also longevity in design. Resource management and waste recycling are also key.

Projects in any sector and for any purpose are invited to enter. Any project that has entered one of the other categories as part of this award scheme is also eligible to enter this award, including:

  •   Mixed-use developments, power, water, waste and industrial projects, and leisure and entertainment facilities
  •   Projects that embrace longevity through design, impact awareness and social enhancement

Those submitting nominations for a sustainable project should use the official online entry form to supply information on the five factors in the delivery of the project:

  •  Economic and social feasibility
  •  Architecture and design
  •  Engineering
  •  Construction procurement and project management
  •  Environmental impact and sustainable development

Go tomeed.com/awardsfor more information or tomeedawards.comto enter the MEED Quality In Projects Award for sustainable project of the year