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ABB’s Middle East Renewables Portfolio Offers Backdrop for Solar Impulse Takeoff

When Dubai broke ground on its planned 1,000 megawatt solar plant two years ago, it turned to ABB to integrate the energy into the grid. Now, the first phase of the Mohammed Bin Rashid solar park is providing thousands of residents with clean, renewable power, with ABB at work on a second, 100-megawatt phase.

Down the coast in Abu Dhabi, where Solar Impulse on Monday began the first-ever flight around the earth without fossil fuel, ABB is partnering with Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a research university, on a photovoltaic- testing facility to develop solar systems that operate with optimum efficiency in a parched desert environment. 

Spreading the word about the benefits of projects like these is one reason ABB last year forged an innovation and technology alliance last year with Solar Impulse: Countries of the Middle East, once associated solely with fossil fuels, are now poised to diversify their economies via projects that help solve local electricity needs without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Renewable energy has graduated from an expensive alternative to a competitive energy of choice,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January 2015. “Oil prices no longer determine the fate of clean energy.”

Renewables from the land of oil
ABB has long held a vision of the Middle East’s renewable’s future. Back in 1992, the company’s power transmission experts drew up a map showing the potential of harnessing renewable energy here, as well as in North Africa and Europe, to meet the power needs of millions of residents.

Nearly a quarter-century later, optimism is growing over renewables’ benefits.

For instance, in 1.7-million-resident Dubai, the emirate’s leaders have initiated steps to eventually bring net-metering for rooftop systems where homeowners are paid for electricity they send back into the grid from their small solar plants. 

To that end, ABB signed a pact last November, again with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, to develop a pilot solar power project at ABB local facilities. A grid-connected rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system with 277 kW installed capacity will be used as a learning tool for deployment of solar photovoltaic rooftop installations.

“It also demonstrates how government and private organizations can work together to enhance Dubai’s sustainable development, and establish its position as a global hub for trade, finance, tourism and green economy.” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s managing director and chief executive officer.

Clear challenge, clear commitment

With the International Energy Agency predicting energy demand in the Middle East will grow by 70 percent by 2040 and electricity demand more than doubling, the challenge is clear: decoupling economic growth from energy consumption and environmental pollution.

Pursuing its credo of “power and productivity for a better world,” ABB commitment to solving this challenge extends to its own facilities, including outfitting them with solar equipment from its portfolio that includes inverters and converters, low-voltage products, monitoring and control systems, grid connection, stabilization and integration products and solutions. 

Since late 2014, for instance, ABB’s refurbished technology and office center in Cairo, Egypt, has been powered by a solar PV rooftop installation showcasing ABB’s inverters and electrification solutions. It feeds the building’s lighting, with surplus power redirected into the Egyptian capital’s grid.

Elsewhere in Egypt, ABB is active, too: For the Zafarana Wind Farm south of Suez on the Red Sea, ABB experts engineered and built the substation linking turbines of Egypt’s first large-scale wind farm with the grid. And at the Kureimat solar plant south of Cairo, ABB supplied the distribution control system, medium voltage switchgear, motors and drives.

“ABB in Egypt is also ideally positioned for upcoming solar and wind renewable projects at home and for export with its engineering capabilities, local qualified resources and long list of references around the world,” said ABB country manager Naji Jreijiri. 

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