Integrating emission-free energy into the grid from the world’s largest single solar project
Discover how Hitachi ABB Power Grids powerful ‘step-up’ transformers and power quality products are playing a critical part in connecting the world’s largest single-site photovoltaic solar power plant to the Abu Dhabi grid
The ‘Noor Abu Dhabi’ has been commissioned in Sweihan, a town in the Abu Dhabi desert that is one of the sunniest, most productive places to generate solar energy on the planet.
3.2 million solar panels stretch as far as the eye can see, covering an area of 7.8-square-kilometers, which is almost 1100 football pitches. The plant with a capacity of 1,177 megawatts (MW) of emission-free electricity, supplies enough power to meet the needs of 90,000 people in the city of Abu Dhabi, more than 6% of the population.
Realizing the UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050
UAE’s Energy Strategy 2050, launched in 2017, aims to reach 44 percent of electricity provided from renewables and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70 percent. The Sweihan PV plant is an important milestone on the road to achieving this target, reducing Abu Dhabi’s CO2 emissions by 1 million tons per year – the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars off the road.
“The UAE is harnessing its rich solar resources and turning to sustainable energy on a large scale,” said Dr. Mostafa AlGuezeri, Managing Director of Hitachi ABB Power Grids business in the UAE, Gulf and Near East. “Our record of supplying robust transformers and power quality products for large solar power plants and grid connections makes us an ideal partner for projects of this importance. We are delighted to be working with Sterling & Wilson, and helping TRANSCO and Abu Dhabi realize their energy objectives.”
What does it take to integrate the power from 3.2 million solar panels into the electrical grid?
The electricity generated at the solar plant is integrated into the grid with two 500 mega-volt ampere (MVA) Hitachi ABB Power Grids transformers, each weighing around 350 tons, about the same as 250 mid-size cars. The transformers collect all the generated power and boost the voltage of the electricity from 33 kilovolts (kV) to 220 kV and transfer it safely and reliably into the transmission grid for distribution across the country.
To improve efficiency and reliability of the solar plant, Hitachi ABB Power Grids has also supplied eighteen, 15 mega volt-ampere reactive (Mvar) capacitor banks, tailor-made by our Power Quality Centre. Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ Power Quality Centers are a unique concept, offering customers technical expertise that combines local knowledge with global technologies, to improve key power quality parameters and offer ongoing service support.
For ease of installation, a compact footprint and increased safety, the capacitor banks are metal enclosed for protection in this harsh environment. Additionally, automatic switching technology was implemented which ensures right amount of compensation to maintain power quality and to manage the varying power generation pattern of the solar farm.
Giant PV plants are a demanding application for transformers and capacitor banks. They operate intensively for 12 hours, in extreme heat, then shut down when the sun disappears, and temperature drops substantially. These twice-daily shifts in activity and temperature are challenging, causing components to physically expand and contract, placing large demands on the cooling systems and even effecting the electrical properties of the equipment. Such harsh conditions require robust, precision-engineered equipment that can withstand the tough conditions and operate reliably day after day, for decades.
Broad experience in solar applications
Hitachi ABB Power Grids, as a global technology leader, is one of the few companies approved by the transmission grid operator, TRANSCO, to supply power quality products and transformers of this size, capacity and importance. The technology pioneer was awarded the contract by the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, Sterling and Wilson Solar, for the ability to meet TRANSCO requirements, specifications and a tight delivery deadline. Hitachi ABB Power Grids experience is also translated in a close collaboration with the system designers and users to jointly find the optimum technical, energy efficient and cost-effective solution.
The two transformers are based on Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ TrafoStar™ design concept, a unified engineering technology platform. This provides customers with the same standard of high quality, high reliability and low maintenance requirements across the company’s manufacturing facilities. This global transformer manufacturing footprint also means that Hitachi ABB Power Grids can provide production close to solar installations.
Hitachi ABB Power Grids is the world’s leading supplier of power quality products and transformers globally. The company offers a wide range of products that improve power quality including capacitors and filters, power electronics-based compensators and software solutions, across the power value chain for low, medium and high-voltage applications. For transformers, its offering includes a complete range of liquid-filled and dry-type transformers for solar power applications as well as components, replacement parts and services.