Desert Sun Source for Masdar

A group of NYU Abu Dhabi students joined a public tour of the 10-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant at Masdar City on Saturday, Nov. 9. The PV plant was ...

Nov 9, 2013

A group of NYU Abu Dhabi students joined a public tour of the 10-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant at Masdar City on Saturday, Nov. 9.
The PV plant was launched in 2009 and holds world-record titles in real-world efficiency across multiple cell types. At the time of its construction, it was the only such plant in the Middle East and the first to be connected to Abu Dhabi’s grid system.
While 22 students had registered to join the tour, only 11 attended. The group was composed of a diverse array of students, with majors including engineering, film and economics. Taking charge was senior Dmitriy Tretyakov, a member of Ecoherence and Young Professionals in Energy, the global organization that planned the event.
The tour drew not only NYUAD students but also people from Abu Dhabi and nearby communities, mostly those involved in the energy sector. Guiding the 30-person tour was Ayham Mkalalati, the business development manager and lead photovoltaic project engineer of Enviromena Power Systems.
As the UAE has one of the world’s largest carbon footprints, renewable energy has been a focus for the past few years. Abu Dhabi, for its part, has promised to source seven percent of its power from renewable energy by 2020. Mkalalati is a strong advocate for solar projects in the country.
“In terms of renewable, I think solar should [be] the number one [the UAE] use[s],” Mkalalati said.
The PV plant is a five-minute drive from Masdar City. Mkalalati said the panels took eight months to install and will last 25 years. At the location site, there are two types of solar panels working for the same purpose with separate technologies.
Enviromena, the company behind the plant, is headquartered in Abu Dhabi and develops PV solar power plants across the Middle East and North Africa. Their domestic projects include Masdar City’s solar plant and installations of solar panels at Yas Marina Circuit and at Al Bateen School. Internationally, they have worked in Mauritania and collaborated on a project in Germany.
Environmena’s website states that the PV plant “produces 17,500 MWh of clean electricity annually and offsets 15,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.” Mkalalati added that it could power 200 villas in Abu Dhabi.
Photo by Costanza Maio/The Gazelle
Paired with Abu Dhabi-based Shams 1, a larger solar plant that operates on different technology, the two plants provide energy to all of Masdar City. Once the city expands, 20 percent of its energy is to come from the plants and the rest from external sustainable sources in Abu Dhabi.
The PV plant cost 50 million USD to build. Mkalalati explained that it might take 40 years to break even. Currently, the Abu Dhabi government finances the energy produced by the PV plant and subsidizes its sale to businesses and households. Additionally, households are currently not allowed to install their own private solar panels, Mkalalati explained, considering that the government needs to control the quality of energy connected to the Abu Dhabi grid.
This information particularly attracted Tretyakov’s attention.
“I’m more interested in … the business implications in renewable energy in the UAE … [in] what are the energy economics of the UAE, rather than how energy works,” he said.
Despite the small NYUAD attendance, Tretyakov was positive about the experience. He commended the UAE’s environmentally conscious projects.
“It’s really great that [the] UAE is taking these actions,” said Tretyakov. “It’s definitely number one in [the] GCC.”
Costanza Maio is a staff writer. Email her at
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