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Kuwait turns to renewable energy for power
November 21, 2015, 4:26 pm

Kuwait’s energy diversification plans gathered steam with recent signing of the contract for Al-Shagaya solar-thermal power plant. Located about 100km to the north of Kuwait City along the border with Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the US$385 million solar project is a first step in the country’s move towards increasing the share of renewables in its energy mix.

The project, signed between the Ministry of Electricity and Water and the state-run Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR, with the Spain-based international engineering conglomerate, TSK, will see the Spanish company develop and operate the facility. With a capacity of 60 MW, divided between a 50 MW thermal solar plant and a 10 MW photovoltaic plant, the new project is expected to be integrated into Kuwait’s existing electrical network by December 2017.

One of the unique aspects of the new project is its thermal storage system, which will have a capacity of 9 hours with the use of molten salts. This makes the plant one of few power stations in the world with such extended storage capacity and allows it to supply electricity in a stable 24-hour manner and to respond to every period of energy consumption demand.

According to KISR, the new solar power plant will be part of the planned Al-Shagaya Renewable Energy Park, which will eventually house up to 1100 MW of solar-thermal generation capacity, 750 MW of solar PV and 150 MW of wind power, in the area. In addition to the new Al-Shagaya solar-thermal plant, two other 10MW renewable energy projects have been allotted to the area this year. One of these is a 10MW solar PV plant owned by Kuwait Oil Company, which earlier this year awarded it on a build and operate contract to the Spanish company Gestamp Solar. 

Yet another solar-thermal project high on the government’s agenda, and the first to be run under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, is the Al Abdaliyah Integrated Solar Combined Cycle plant. The facility will be developed under a build-operate-transfer scheme that provides a 25-year concession backed by an energy conversion and power-purchase agreement with the Ministry of Electricity and Water.

To be located about 60km south-west of Kuwait City, the integrated power plant will have a total capacity of 280 MW, of which 60 MW will be generated from solar power. Kuwait Authority for Partnerships Projects (KAPP), which will oversee the venture, has begun calling for Request for Proposals from the local companies that have been shortlisted for the project. The local companies in collaboration with foreign firms are expected to submit their proposals by mid-March 2016.

An additional environmental benefit is that annual CO2 emissions from the plant will be 48,000 tons less than that emitted in a conventional plant of comparable capacity. The plant will provide services more efficiently than conventional combined cycle power plant, with stable continuous power generation.

The energy park and other renewable energy initiatives are aimed at pushing ahead with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah’s announcement in late 2012 that the country would generate 5 percent of its energy needs from renewables by 2020 and 15 percent by 2030. In line with this directive, Kuwait plans to generate 4.5GW of renewable energy by 2030, when the total power demand is projected to increase from the current 12GW to 30GW annually.

Kuwait, which has one of the highest rates per capita energy consumption, is increasingly looking at energy alternatives to fuel its growing economy and meet domestic demand that has more than doubled in the past decade. With oil prices in a slump and expected to remain there for a while, the government is looking at various options, including reducing the heavy subsidization of water and electricity, as well as encouraging greater private participation in the country’s water and electricity generation sector.

Kuwait was among the last in the region to dedicate a larger role to the private sector in its electricity segment. The fact that TSK will have an operational role in the new solar project is a welcome announcement for others looking to participate in the government’s future PPP ventures.

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