Dubai Explores Feasibility Of Floating Solar Projects

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The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has expressed its intention to set up floating solar power projects in the Arabian Gulf. The company has issued a Request for Proposal to study the feasibility of such projects.

In a press release, DEWA announced that it had issued a request for proposal ‘for appointing consultants to study, develop and construct floating solar photovoltaic plants in the Arabian Gulf’. While the RfP document was not available on DEWA’s website at the time of publication, the press release does give a few details.

The terms of the RfP require a consultant to study the feasibility of floating solar power projects over seawater, conduct an environmental impact assessment, and other studies related to marine requirements and transmission network for power evacuation.

DEWA is already developing what it claims to be the largest single-site solar park in the world, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The park is expected to have an installed capacity of 5 gigawatts by 2030 at an investment of $13.6 billion. DEWA has already auctioned 1.95 gigawatts of capacity of the planned capacity with another 900 megawatts tendered.

While most of the floating solar power projects are planned over reservoirs of large hydro power projects, there are examples of operational floating solar power projects over seawater.

Austria-based Swimsol has commissioned 500 systems with a cumulative capacity of 100 megawatts using its patented SolarSea product. The product consists of floating platforms whose arrangement can be customized as per requirement. Each of these platforms is equipped with 25 kilowatts of marine-grade solar panels. The company claims 5-10% higher production from these systems compared to the equivalent rooftop solar power systems due to the cooling effect of seawater and additional reflective radiation.

Another developer, Sunseap, was planning to set up a 5 megawatt project over seawater in the Johor Strait between Singapore and Malaysia. The project was supposed to the commissioned by the first quarter of this year, however the company has not reported the same so far.

The World Bank, in a recent study, reported that there is nearly 1.1 gigawatt of floating solar power capacity globally. However, in the study’s authors also agree that floating solar power over seawater poses specific challenges, including long-term reliability, high operation and maintenance cost and bio fouling, among others. However, such power plants may also be of strong interest to populous coastal cities and perhaps the only viable option for small islands to generate solar power. 

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