Rooftop solar is growing quickly in the UAE, writes Kanav Duggal from the Middle East Solar Industry Association
The UAE as a whole plans to have 44 per cent of its electricity generated from clean sources by 2050. Similarly, Dubai’s Clean Energy Strategy in particular aims to have 75 per cent of the emirate’s energy generated from clean sources by the same deadline.
Part of the clean energy strategy in Dubai involves having solar panels installed on every roof in the city by 2030. Rooftops are an ideal place to install solar panels because they receive abundant solar irradiation for most of the year, they make cleaning and maintaining panels much easier and they have less of a visual impact than panels installed elsewhere.
Rooftop solar is growing quickly; it is anticipated that 200 MW of rooftop solar will be connected to the UAE grid by the end of 2018.
So far, the main sources of growth in the rooftop segment within the UAE have been government entities and players in the commercial and industrial (C&I) space. Residential rooftop solar adoption has shown slower levels of growth. Module prices increased in Q3 of 2017, but prices can be expected to fall again as the number of projects and suppliers in the region begin to increase.
Improvements in inverter, monitoring and PV cell technology are expected to help bring down project costs even further. Should the cleaning of solar panels move from a manual to a more automated process (e.g. robotic cleaning), then operational and maintenance costs will also see declines, however, manual cleaning will remain the norm for the moment due to low labour rates.
While Abu Dhabi has recently introduced a net metering scheme, the other emirates (excluding Dubai) do not have such mechanisms in place just yet, so the regional governments must take action to help boost rooftop solar proliferation in the country.
Overall, the growth outlook for rooftop solar in the UAE looks promising but there is still much work to be done.
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Kanav Duggal is research and content manager at Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA).