Total and Marubeni go bifacial to deliver Qatar’s utility-scale PV debut

The Al Wakrah Stadium in Doha, being built in preparation for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Photo: Flickr, Matt Kieffer

French fossil fuel giant Total and Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp have inked a deal to develop Qatar's first utility-scale solar plant, an 800MW project planned 80 kilometres west of capital Doha.

The partners were awarded the contract under the Gulf nation’s maiden solar tender, launched last year as part of a broader effort by the gas-exporting nation to decarbonise its electricity grid and reduce the footprint of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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The design, construction and operation of the Al Kharsaah solar plant is expected to cost US$500 million. Around 350MWp of energy capacity will be connected to the grid by the first quarter of 2021 and the remaining capacity will follow one year later, according to a Total press release.

Two million bifacial modules with trackers will be deployed across a 1,000-hectare site.

The project announcement marks a milestone for Qatar, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas producer and exporter. PV capacity in the country has stagnated at 5.1MW since 2016, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Once fully commissioned, the plant will cover 10% of Qatar’s peak electricity demand. It will sell power to utility Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation, otherwise known as Kahramaa, for 25 years.

Total and Marubeni will take a joint 40% stake in the project, the 40% stake itself split between the former (49%) and the latter (51%). Siraj Energy, a joint venture between the state-run Qatar Petroleum and the Qatar Electricity & Water Company, will hold the remaining 60%.

Offtaker claims project tariff is ‘lowest in the world’

While details of the project's tariff were not revealed, Kahramaa president Essa bin Hilal Al-Kuwari said the firm had bagged a “competitive unit price for electricity produced from the solar PV power plant, which (sic) price is currently the lowest in the world for such a project.” 

Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Qatar’s minister for energy affairs and president of Qatar Petroleum, said the project would significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the football World Cup, planned for late 2022.

The development, he said, is “part of the energy sector’s contributions towards Qatar’s commitment to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup. It will generate about eight times the size of the solar energy Qatar had pledged to build, helping the organization of a carbon-neutral event.”

The deal will also bring Total closer to its aim of developing a 25GW renewable energy portfolio by 2025.

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