If there's one thing we know about the Middle East is that it gets a lot of sunlight. And this relentless solar pounding on the region's deserts positions the Middle East as a major player in solar power generation.
One type of relatively unknown solar power technology that has been getting a lot of attention lately is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) which basically takes a field of reflectors that concentrate sunbeams on a single point (think kid frying ants with a magnifying glass) that heats a fluid, converts it to steam which then spins an electricty-generating turbine. A very comprehensive report released yesterday on the future of Concentrated Solar Power [PDF] provides all the detail you could ever wish for, so I thought it would be helpful to break out some of the more interesting findings into bite-size chunks (with permission from the authors, of course).
According to the report, here's the state of play for Concentrated Solar Power in the Middle East:
Concentrated Solar Power in Israel
In 2002, the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures, which is responsible for the energy sector, made concentrated solar power a strategic component of the electricity market. Israel introduced feed-in incentives for solar IPPs from September 2006, effective for 20 years.
This was following a feasibility study on CSP incentive done in 2003 and evaluated by the Israeli Public Utilities Authority (PUA). Following this, Greenpeace published a cost-benefit analysis for solar energy in Israel, indicating that the state could use up to 2,000 MW of solar power by 2025.
Israel now has a feed-in tariff incentive solar electricity of approximately 16.3 US cents/kWh (November, 2006) for over 20 MW installed capacity and a maximum fossil back-up of 30% of the energy produced. The tariff for smaller plants of 100 kW to 20 MW range is about 20.4 US cents/ kWh for the first 20 years (November 2006).
In February 2007, the Israeli Ministry ordered a CSP plant to be built at a site already approved in Ashalim, in the south of Israel. The project is comprised of two solar thermal power plants, each with an approximate installed capacity of between 80MW to 125MW and in the aggregate up to 220MW installed capacity plus one photovoltaic power plant with an approximate installed capacity of 15MW with option to increase by an additional 15MW. The Ministry’s pre-qualification process in 2008 received seven proposals for the solar thermal power plants and 10 proposals for the photovoltaic power plant.
At the time of writing, the government had requested full tenders and a bid winner is expected to be announced towards the end of 2009. Construction is expected to occur between 2010 and 2012.
Concentrated Solar Power in Turkey
Turkey possesses a substantial potential in Hydro, Wind, Solar, Geothermal and bio-combustible energy resources compared to the European average. Turkey's total solar energy potential is 131 TWh a year and solar energy production is aimed to reach 2.2 TWh in 2010 and 4.2 TWh in 2020.9 Turkey enacted its first specific Renewable Energy Law in May 2005 (the ‘Law on Utilisation of
Renewable Energy Sources for the Purpose of Generating Electrical Energy’).
The Renewable Energy Law works in line with ‘Renewable Energy Source Certificates’ (RES Certificate). The law introduced fixed tariffs for electricity generated out of renewable energy sources and, a purchase obligation for the distribution companies holding retail licenses from the certified renewable energy producers. The price of electrical energy bought in accordance with this provision is determined by EMRA. The initial amount was 9.13 YKr per kWh in 2007, (approximately 5.2 Eurocents per kWh) for the first 10 years of operation for a respective renewable energy generation facility.
Currently there are amendments being made to the RES law. The Draft Law for RES includes a feed-in tariff for CSP of 24 eurocents per kWh for 20 years for the first 10 years, dropping to 20 eurocents per kWh for the second 10 years. Legislations are also discussing an additional tariff for the first five years if at least 40% of the equipment is manufactured in Turkey. There may be further changes to the draft law and the final outcome in Turkey, by the time this report is printed.
Concentrated Solar Power in Jordan
Jordan has a long-standing interest in large-scale solar thermal power generation. Over the last 10 years there have been several proposals and analyses of solar thermal potential in Jordan, although progress has been difficult due to the Gulf War.
In 2002, the government published an industry update that stated that the first 100-150 MW solar-hybrid plant should be up and running in Quwairah by 2005. The contract was awarded to Solar Millennium but it appears to have stalled as no further information is available on its status.
A consortium of research institutions started a study in 2007 on the use of solar energy in large scale solar desalination applications, as a step towards the construction of a pilot solar desalination plant for communities in Israel and Jordan.
Concentrated Solar Power in United Arab Emirates
The UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, have started an important initiative to use renewable energy for an entire city that is currently under development, to build capacity in this key future field of the world economy. The development of this is pursued mainly by the company MASDAR (Arabic for Source), which has launched several renewable energy projects, among them one 100 MW CSP solar-only plant which should go into construction during 2009.
Concentrated Solar Power in Iran
The Islamic Republic of Iran has shown an interest in renewable energy technology, including solar power, and is keen to exploit its abundant solar resource by means of CSP technology. The government also wants to diversify its power production away from the country’s oil and natural gas reserves.
In 1997, the Iranian Power Development Company undertook a comprehensive feasibility study on an Integrated Solar Combined Cycle with trough technology from the Electric Power Research Centre (now the NIROO Research Institute) and Fichtner (now Fichtner Solar). Esfahan, Fars, Kerman and Yazd are all excellent regions for installing solar thermal power plants in Iran, but Yazd, where the entire high plateau is characterised by an annual direct normal irradiation of over 2,500 kWh/m2 a year was finally selected as the site for the first plant. No new developments in the market have been announced since then.
Interested in what's going with Concentrated Solar Power in other regions of the world? Check out these articles:
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