Bifacial Solar Panels On Trackers Help RAI Win 50 Megawatt Solar Auction In Jordan

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The bid that won a 50 megawatt solar plant award in Jordan for RAI Energy International was as low as it was only because the design was based on bifacial panels and on single axis trackers, says Mohammed S. Alrai, CEO of the San Jose-based company. At $0.0250 per kilowatt-hour, RAI secured second place among 30 bidders, edged out of first place by panel manufacturer Jinko, which bid $0.02488/kWh.

“I knew that the bidding would be very low, but I was surprised that so many companies did not come very close to the winning level,” says Alrai. “Jordan is now a mature market for solar, and there are plenty of companies in the market that can build a plant very efficiently now. Solar was exotic in Jordan in 2012, but it is a standard now,” he says.

Bifacial panels are able to deliver higher yields than monofacial panels thanks to albedo, the light reflected off the ground. RAI plans to add some form of ground covering to maximize that albedo, Alrai says. With a high albedo, the energy boost from a bifacial panel can range from a current level of about 10% upwards towards 30%, experts says.

Solar trackers also provide an energy yield over fixed-tilt mounting structures, offering 10 to 15% more energy from the same footprint. While RAI expects to use single-axis trackers on the new award plant, Jordan Solar Two, located in Ma’an, the company is also evaluating dual-axis trackers for potential use, Alrai says.

Jordan Solar Two will be granted a 20-year power purchase agreement with the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO). While some 25 year PPAs have been awarded by NEPCO, the standard for solar generation is now 20 years, Alrai notes.

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There is still another 50 or 100 megawatts (MW) of solar awards that may come from Round 3 in the solar expansion program administered by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) with the advise of the Fichtner Group. RAI still could be awarded the additional capacity, once MEMR decides how it will proceed with the remainder of the round, Alrai says.

This round of solar awards is part of the country’s lofty goal of deriving 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. There are already about 800 MW of wind and solar installed in the country, but the goal is to raise that number to 1.6 GW by 2020, with a total investment of about $18 billion. Solar alone is expected to reach 800 MW, although solar plus storage plants are expected to increase that number.

Apart from the solar PPA awards, Jordan also is encouraging merchant solar and other private solar projects. One new project underway is the 52 MW AM Solar plant being developed by a consortium between AES, Mitsui, and Qatar’s Nebras Power, in Al-Madounah, East Amman. The $50 million project is being built by Wärtsilä on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis, with completion expected in 2019.

One delay to the national plan has been its inability to absorb the new generation with existing transmission and distribution infrastructure. To remedy this, the construction of a new $160 million Green Corridor of transmission lines is being built with the financial help of France and the European Investment Bank. The new lines should be able to carry up to 800 MW of renewable energy.

“The Green Corridor is supposed to be finished in 2019, so once it is ready, we will have Jordan Solar Two ready,” Alrai says. His company is no stranger to the Jordanian solar market. RAI has built four solar plants already, ranging from 12 MW to 24 MW. These include the Jordan Solar One project in Mafraq at 24MW, the Ward Al Joury project in Ma’an at 12MW, the Al-Zanbaq project in Ma’an at 12MW, and the Zahrat Al Salam project in Ma’an at 12MW.

Jordan is blessed with an abundance of solar energy, which is evident from the annual daily average solar irradiance on a horizontal surface range of between five to seven kilowatt-hour/square meter, one of the highest figures in the world, notes a US consular report.

RAI Energy International is a global energy development company managed by a group of executives with collectively more than 120 years of experience in the energy sector. RAI Energy is focused on utility-scale PV and energy storage in the US and MENA.

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Charles W. Thurston

Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

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