It all started in 2008, when the National Authority for the regulation of the Electricity (AER), following a study carried out on its initiative on the possible use of renewable energy sources present in the country for power production, has confirmed Oman’s solar potential as one of the highest in the world, and could be sufficient to cover the entire electricity demand of the population. The Renewable Energy Study in Oman estimated an extremely high irradiation rate between 4.5 and 6.1 kWh/m² per day (1,640 and 2,200 kWh per year), with a peak during the summer season, corresponding to the period when national electricity consumption is the highest.
Given the magnitude of this solar potential, able not only to meet growing demand, but also to be used for export, the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) started in 2009 a feasibility study to implement the first project of large-scale electricity generation from solar energy, and to install in Oman a center of excellence for the development and manufacture of solar technologies. The Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), which will be the sole supplier of electricity generated by the project, is committed to using the best available technologies to alleviate the need for electricity. develop a network capable of receiving a high proportion of solar energy.
Thus, in 2017, the dream began to come true, with the issuance of a qualification call for the realization of the first large-scale solar photovoltaic independent energy project (IPP) of the Sultanate, confirming the government’s real intention to diversify its energy resources (the country’s economy is dominated by oil and gas exports and is also suffering from the fall in international prices) to promote a sustainable economy, and secure an electricity demand in the long term. Indeed, the executive’s strategy aims to increase the share of renewable energies in the national energy mix to 10% by 2025, thus reducing the extreme dependence of its population on the electricity produced by gas-fired power plants (more than 97% of the country’s energy consumption).
The solar park, which will be located in Ibri, in the north-west of the country (the last locality before the huge desert area that covers most of Oman’s territory) will guarantee a power capacity of 500 MW and will cover an area of 1,800 hectares to become one of the largest photovoltaic sites in the region. The power generated by the solar park, which alone will satisfy the electricity demand of nearly 33,000 homes, will also be connected to the central grid managed by the Oman Electric Transmission Company.
Now that the bidding process has been launched, all that remains is to wait for the formal awarding of the contract to the winning private PV firm, which is expected to be announced by the end of the year. At present, twelve international companies have been qualified to participate in the competition process and have until October 22 to present their offers. The selected company will be responsible for the complete realization of the new plant – financing, logistics, purchasing, development, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, etc. – under EPC and O&M turnkey services for an initial period of 15 years.
It should be noted that this new photovoltaic solar power generation site, which is expected to be operational by June 2021, will enable the Sultanate to avoid the emission of 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
In view of the forthcoming results of Ibri’s IPP and the Oman Government’s renewed interest in renewable energies, the OPWP is now planning to build six new solar and wind sites for a total output of 2,650 MW, by 2024. These six projects include three large-scale solar photovoltaic plants with a capacity of 500 MW each. For the moment, these are indicated under the names of Solar IPP 2022, Solar IPP 2023 and Solar IPP 2024, according to the years when they will be supposed to be respectively operational. Considering the local irradiation rates, it was decided that these new photovoltaic sites would be built in the three localities of Ibri, Manah and Adam.