China engineers complete largest solar farm on Earth in UAE ahead of Cop28

The world’s largest single-site solar power plant – a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative – has been completed in the United Arab Emirates, ahead of the UN climate change conference Cop28 in Dubai later this month.

The two-gigawatt Al Dhafra Solar Photovoltaic Project covers 20 sq km (12.4 square miles) of desert outside Abu Dhabi and can power about 200,000 households, according to main contractor China National Machinery Industry Corporation.

The company said the plant was expected to help Abu Dhabi reduce carbon emissions by 2.4 million tonnes each year – the equivalent of taking more than half a million cars off the road – and take the proportion of clean energy to over 13 per cent of the emirate’s overall consumption.

By mid-November, the solar farm had already produced 3.6 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity ahead of its official inauguration last Thursday.

“As the UAE prepares to host Cop28, this pioneering project reflects the country’s ongoing commitment to raising its share of clean energy, reducing its carbon emissions and supporting the global efforts on climate action,” said Abu Dhabi’s deputy ruler, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Sheikh Hazza also expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the contractor’s “high standard, high quality work”, the company said on its official WeChat account.

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The plant consists of 4 million solar panels that can capture sunlight on both sides, according to the company, which was responsible for its design, civil engineering, equipment supply, installation and commissioning. It will also provide two years of operation and maintenance.

According to Chinese media reports, the three-year construction contract was signed in October 2020 – with the project team battling the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent supply-chain constraints to complete the project on time.

“China used the most cutting-edge solar panel components and the latest design and construction concepts to build this plant,” the project’s on-site manager, Che Mingan, told the official newspaper of the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

“From the photovoltaic modules to tracking brackets and cleaning robots, the project embraced Chinese products and Chinese technologies,” said Che, who has worked with more than 5,000 colleagues from 19 countries in Abu Dhabi’s desert since 2020.

According to Che, the Al Dhafra plant has been operating at full capacity since April. “It will be crucial for the UAE to achieve its carbon neutrality goal by 2050, and promote regional energy transformation and sustainable development,” he said.


China’s Belt and Road, 10 years on

China’s Belt and Road, 10 years on

The newspaper report said the Abu Dhabi project was the latest example of how China was helping countries in belt-and-road areas to achieve their clean energy ambitions.

China has fostered green development partnerships with more than 30 countries under the belt and road infrastructure programme, according to the report.

These have included the Karachi nuclear power plant’s K-2 and K-3 phases – built by China National Nuclear Corporation with its home-grown, third-generation nuclear power technology.

The report said the Karachi plant generated nearly 20 billion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity to meet the annual needs of 2 million people in Pakistan.

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