Look: Inside Dubai's solar park where thousands of panels generate electricity from the desert

The massive farm turns a swath of sand dunes into a sea of shining blue photovoltaic panels

by

Waheed Abbas

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Photo: M. Sajjad/Khaleej Times
Photo: M. Sajjad/Khaleej Times

Published: Tue 12 Dec 2023, 12:26 PM

Last updated: Tue 12 Dec 2023, 9:09 PM

Miles and miles of solar panels dot Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park — generating electricity right in the middle of the desert to illuminate thousands of homes in the emirate.

Drive past the Last Exit Roundabout towards MBR Solar Park and you won't miss two unique towers: Innovation Centre and Central Tower.

As you approach the Innovation Centre, a swath of photovoltaic cells (PVs) emerges from the horizon. And on the road, both sides are lined with glistening panels. The park is adorned with phase upon phase of solar panels, creating a breathtaking sight from above.

Keeping them in tiptop, shining condition is necessary not only to maintain the stunning view. They have to be regularly cleaned and protected from dust and sand so they could produce maximum electricity.

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Robotic arms attached to each of the thousands of rows clean the solar panels every day, irrespective of whether the weather is clear or sandy, according to Mohammad Ahmad Kahim Jame, vice-president for clean energy, diversification, business development and excellence at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).

“You have to keep the surface clean. Even on a very nice day, there will be some dust. So you must clean and maintain the systems,” Mohammed said during a media tour of the fourth phase of the MBR Solar Park.

The six phases of the world’s largest single-site solar park cover 127sqkm with 8 million PV panels generating clean electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes in the emirate.

The number of solar panels will increase to 12.2 million in the coming years as the emirate adds more phases to generate 5,000 megawatts of clean energy.

Dewa and its partner Acwa Power have set up a visitor centre at Noor Energy (which is the fourth phase of the MBR Solar Park), where one would be surrounded by large screens that give the latest information about the park. Noor Energy’s main office also houses an auditorium and an information centre where visitors are briefed about the Guinness World Records that the project holds.

“We want to consider different technologies and don't want to keep repeating. We are also looking forward to having storage and it is of strategic importance because you can have generation during the day, but you need to have storage to maintain supply throughout the night as well,” said Mohammad Ahmad Kahim Jame, vice-president for clean energy, diversification, business development and excellence at Dewa.

The MBR Solar Park project is being built at a cost of Dh50 billion and it will help save millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Each phase has been designed to build in a competitive bidding structure between various international developers and Dewa under IPP projects.

A visit to the park shows that Dubai is embracing innovation and new technologies in every sphere of life and business that we may not realise in our busy daily lives in this marvellous metropolitan city.

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