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Energy Storage in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – A Closer Look2017.01.18

Masdar may have not been the success story most of us would have hoped for, but, whether as a direct result of the Masdar vision or not, renewable energy is now on the way forward to becoming a major contributor of clean energy on the national grids of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Both Emirates are currently in the process of connecting large scale PV solar power plants with a total capacity of more than 1 GW each to their respective grids. In both cases the anticipated share in terms of installed capacity is about to exceed 10%. The rapid deployment of renewables, mainly consisting of PV Solar Assets, must however be integrated efficiently in the grid to avoid the losses due to curtailment and will ultimately require a comprehensive smart grid and energy storage strategy.

Unlike their European counter parts, ADWEA (Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority) and DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Department) have the advantage that they are fully integrated, state owned utilities that can determine the Smart Grid and Energy Storage Strategy that suits them best. Even so it is still far too early to determine what energy storage strategy ADWEA and DEWA might ultimately adopt, it might be beneficial to have a closer look at where they currently are.

ADEWA has deployed approximately 120 MW of NAS Sodium-Sulfur high temperature batteries in 4 MW or 8 MW systems at various 33kV/11kV substations across their distribution network in what is known in Abu Dhabi as the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). Fully operational since 2015, the batteries have been deployed to strengthen the grid and to provide investment deferral through peak shaving. It is worth noting that ADWEA decided to deploy BESS primarily to provide grid support services long before releasing the tender for the Sweihan solar project, which is expected to add a capacity of 1.1 GW to the grid. Even so BESS was primarily designed to provide grid support services, the installed energy storage capacity will be available to provide some support in terms of ramp rate management and primary reserve.

It appears that ADWEA has no immediate plans to extend the existing energy storage system or to deploy other solutions any time soon. However, since Abu Dhabi is preparing to ramp up the deployment of renewables through a Solar Roof Program like Shams Dubai it is reasonable to expect that ADWEA will eventually want to add more energy storage capacity to the grid.


Whereas ADWEA opted to deploy large scale energy storage systems for grid related services first, DEWA decided to prioritize the deployment of renewable energy projects. The 13 MW Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (MBR) is operational since 2013 and has enabled DEWA to study the potential impact of PV power plant operations on the grid.

Thus, DEWA recognized the need to develop a comprehensive smart grid and energy storage deployment strategy and as a first step, decided to start the tendering process for a 250 MW pump hydro energy storage system at the Al Hattawi Dam near the town of Hatta. In parallel DEWA is conducting an energy storage workshop with a focus on battery based energy storage solutions supported by various energy storage technology and solution providers. The target is the development of a smart grid strategy that enables Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 which targets a clean energy share of 75%.

It is expected that a major share of Dubai’s future energy demand will be provided by PV solar assets, which require large scale energy storage. Whatever DEWA’s future energy storage strategy may be, DEWA will most likely initiate a pilot energy storage program to gain operating experience.

Claudio Palmieri,
CLS Energy Consultants DMCC

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