Under the auspices of the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP), Bahrain is actively seeking to boost renewable energy’s contribution to the energy mix. Development of new solar power projects will be an important component of implementing the NREAP, and the government has made good progress on advancing its solar agenda over recent years.
While the NREAP emphasises decentralised, smallscale solutions to achieve some of its renewable targets, the plan has also called for the construction of a large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plant in Bahrain’s Southern Governorate. Work on this project advanced in 2019 after the Electricity and Water Authority (EWA) awarded a tender for the project under a public-private partnership (PPP) model. PPPs offer a number of new opportunities for renewable energy investment in Bahrain and should help the private sector play a leading role in reaching renewable targets.
In solar, the NREAP is focused on decentralised solutions, and identified initiatives to develop the sector including establishing grid codes and other requirements for small-scale solar PV systems, designating 50 to 100 government buildings with large roof areas for private development of solar PV systems, using a tender-based feed-in tariff scheme and designating a batch of new housing units to implement solar systems as pilot projects.
Solar features heavily in the plan’s decentralised urban generation target of 100 to 150 MW. In addition to solar housing units and solar systems for government buildings, it calls for decentralised solar adoption in urban developments, including in lighting and parking, as well as decentralised rooftop solar systems on existing residential and commercial buildings. Outside of decentralised, small-scale solar projects, the plan calls for a larger solar farm in the Askar landfill site and 5 MW hybrid solar and wind project to be developed by the EWA, and solar farms in new town developments. The kingdom aims to bring 255 MW of solar PV capacity on-line by 2025 with net metering systems, solar projects developed via PPPs and meeting renewable energy requirements.
The kingdom is making progress in achieving some of its solar targets, most notably the Askar landfill solar farm. In January 2019 the kingdom launched a tender for the 100-MW utility-scale project, after the EWA issued a preliminary request for concept for the project in March 2017. Amin Al Yaquob, CEO of the GCC’s Association for Renewable Energy and Sustainability (GCCARES), told press that the project would be developed by an independent power producer (IPP). Industry media reported that three bids had been submitted as of January 2019. In the same month the Sustainable Energy Unit launched a 3-MW rooftop tender for 66 government buildings from a portfolio of 120 buildings holding high potential for solar systems. The tender was split into three lots of 1.25 MW, 1 MW and 750 KW, with the capacity for each lot to be achieved using small plants of 10 to 200 KW. The buildings will primarily use solar systems for their own power needs; any surplus will be fed into the grid using new net metering regulations. Bidders must supply, build, own and operate the PV systems, with excess electricity to be sold at a fixed tariff under a power purchase agreement.
On February 25, 2019 Al Yaquob told media that Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power had won the tender for the Askar landfill project. According to industry media, ACWA Power successfully submitted the lowest bid of BD14.67 ($38.90) per MWh for the project, with the company set to act as an IPP under a build-own-operate PPP model. Although details on the timeline and budget had yet to be announced as of November 2019, the successful tendering of its first-ever large-scale solar project bodes well for Bahrain and future renewable energy development.
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