Boom in demand
As a direct result of the programme’s launch, we opened an office in Dubai in 2015. As of October 2019, DEWA had connected 1,354 photovoltaic solar installations on residential, commercial and industrial buildings to its grid under the Shams Dubai programme, adding a total capacity of 125MW.
The first rooftop solar system to be connected to the grid under the initiative was at Al Maktoum International – Dubai World Central airport, with a capacity of 30KW. Since then, a series of other major projects have been completed, many involving Dubai Municipality buildings and government-related enterprises.
In July, for example, Dubai Airports announced it had completed the installation of 15,000 photovoltaic solar panels at Dubai International airport’s Terminal 2. The panels have a combined capacity of 5MW, and it is estimated they will help to save more than 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year and reduce the electricity bill for the terminal by an incredible AED3.3m a year.
In addition, Dubai World Trade Centre last year installed 3,000 photovoltaic panels on the roof of Sheikh Rashid Hall as the first phase of a programme to install 3MW of solar panels on its premises. DP World, meanwhile, is aiming for 39MW of solar capacity distributed across its sites at Jebel Ali and Mina Rashid, and DEWA itself has fitted 1.5MW worth of solar panels to the exterior of its Jebel Ali M power station.
Overall, Dubai government and its various entities are taking giant strides to transition to clean energy, and their achievements are truly remarkable. But there is room for improvement.
The challenge DEWA faces in rolling out this programme more widely is the large number of high-rise towers in Dubai. These do not have space for solar arrays, and a lot of the housing stock is rented out. If building owners do not themselves benefit from the reduction in electricity bills, there is little motivation for them to invest in fitting solar panels on their properties. The cost of installing a photovoltaic system to a villa is about $3,000-$5,000. Depending on electricity usage, the payback period is between two and 10 years.
The Sustainable City project
Trina Solar has had the privilege of working on one of the highest profile projects under the Shams Dubai programme, installing solar panels on the rooftops of the villas being built at The Sustainable City.
The development, from Diamond Developers, is the first low carbon community in the Middle East. We fitted all 426 villas with DuoMax panels, a dual-glass design that performs best in harsh environments with extreme heat and humidity. Having glass on the back offers additional protection, provides a longer life and more energy due to lower degradation. It also has a much higher fire resistance, which is important in commercial and residential buildings. In total, we installed 40,000 solar panels, with a combined generating capacity of 12MW. This will result in 11,000 tonnes a year of carbon emissions being saved. Solar power production began in August 2017.
What The Sustainable City project has shown is that the energy needs of an entire community can easily be met through clean energy sources. And we hope to see more communities follow suit as this will help steer Dubai towards achieving its ambitious renewable energy targets.
The advantage of the developer-led approach is that it allows for economies of scale when compared with villa owners retrospectively fitting panels to their properties. It also ensures entire neighbourhoods are harnessing nature’s clean energy potential. Thanks to the Shams Dubai initiative, it is now relatively simple for villa and building owners and developers to turn a rooftop into a generator of solar power. For commercial and industrial building owners who are put off by the capital investment involved, the good news is the cost of photovoltaic technology has fallen dramatically over the past decade. There are also solar leasing companies who will take on the upfront costs and share the electricity bill savings with the building owners.Easy steps to solar energy
An important aspect of the Shams Dubai initiative is that it certifies consultants, contractors and solar equipment suppliers to participate in the programme. This provides a level of protection to the consumers and makes it simpler for them to engage in the distributed energy market. In order to receive their certification, representatives of the companies have to attend a special training programme led by DEWA.
As of July, there were 110 contracting companies and 13 consulting firms enrolled in the Shams Dubai programme, and Trina Solar is one of more than 130 equipment manufacturers that have registered their solar panels and systems with DEWA.
DEWA has also added a Shams Dubai Calculator to its website which allows building owners to estimate the number of panels that could be installed on their premises and the potential power generating capacity, as well as possible savings on their electricity bills. The calculator generates a suitability score based on insolation, the proposed number of panels and shading of the building caused by nearby structures. It also estimates the potential reduction in the household carbon footprint from installing solar panels.
This all contributes hugely to Dubai’s goal of generating 75 per cent of the emirate’s power supply from clean energy by 2050. But to really succeed, consumers, businesses and industry must all play their part, too. The Shams Dubai programme is the route through which companies and individuals can begin the exciting journey towards generating their own energy and reducing carbon emissions.