Oman weighs Concentrated Solar Power project at Duqm

A first-of-its-kind Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project is envisioned for development near Duqm in Al Wusta Governorate as part of Oman’s pivot away from gas-powered electricity generation to renewables-based sources.

The initiative, subject to the findings of a feasibility study, will add to a mixed portfolio of renewable resources and technologies being explored by the Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP) – the sole national buyer of power and water output – to help achieve Oman’s targets for the decarbonisation of the power generation sector. Those targets prescribe a minimum 35 – 39 per cent share of national electricity supply coming from renewables by the year 2040.

CSP technology complements solar photovoltaic (PV) technology of the kind that’s in use at Oman’s first large-scale grid-connected 500 MWp solar power plant in operation at Ibri in Al Dhahirah Governorate. The one-million odd solar panels installed at site convert sunlight into electricity, which is then channeled into the national grid.

In the case of CSP technology, however, mirrors arrayed in concentric circles reflect solar radiation on to a centrally located thermal receiver, with the heat captured and stored by a fluid to power a turbine to generate electricity. As the liquid can absorb and store solar energy, this heat can also be used later to power a turbine during periods of low sunlight, and even at night.

Significantly, OPWP’s vision for a CSP project at Duqm also includes thermal storage within its scope to ensure a degree of stabilized electricity supply from the plant. A feasibility study into the project – originally envisaged with a capacity of around 600 MW, was earlier slated to be completed in 2022. Once deemed viable, OPWP plans to include the CSP project in its procurement strategy, it said.

That procurement strategy envisions the procurement of new solar and wind based Independent Power Projects on an annual basis over the next several years through 2028.

Slated for development over this period are three solar PV projects (including Manah I and Manah II Solar IPPs), five wind IPPs and one Waste-to-Energy project. Also being prepped for implementation are a new solar IPP within the Main Interconnected System (MIS) for launch in 2027, Ras Madrakah Wind IPP (Al Wusta Governorate) also in 2027, and Sadah Wind IPP (Dhofar Governorate) in 2028.

Importantly, no new gas-based thermal capacity is in the cards for procurement during this period, with OPWP focused solely on renewable energy projects over this timeframe. However, any supply shortfalls will be met through short-term capacity pacts or energy imports via interconnections with neighbouring power systems, or other local operators with surplus capacity on their hands.