(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Besides reducing electricity bills, residents are encouraged to take advantage of Dubai's cheap solar energy to contribute to providing a cleaner environment by installing solar panels in their properties.
The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has invited Dubai's citizens and residents to benefit from the Shams Dubai smart initiative and instal solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs of premises to generate electricity from solar power and export any excess to the power grid.
Till now, Dewa has installed panels to produce 47.3MW of solar power, connected to 1,126 buildings, out of which 5MW are residential villas and the remaining are government, commercial and industrial buildings.
Dewa has estimated that from the total installed capacity of 47.3MW, this would easily contribute to an approximate total annual energy generation of 70,950MWh which also reflects the contributed total savings.
"The energy generated is specific to each building, based on design and performance of the solar systems and also the available solar radiation, but the panels could easily contribute to at least 70,950 MWh," Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, CEO and MD of Dewa, said in a statement to Khaleej Times. This will increase eventually to cover all buildings in the emirate by 2030.
Al Tayer added that the Shams Dubai allows customers to avoid using expensive power storage systems by connecting the photovoltaic panels to the network.
"The surplus power will be exported to Dewa's grid, which will be deducted from the customers' future bill. This is beside increasing the value of buildings where solar photovoltaic systems are installed," said Al Tayer.
The government's investment in solar energy has caused the market to mature dramatically, bringing the price down to achieve investment grade.
Lately, the third phase of Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park achieved a world record low tariff of $2.99 per kilowatt under a competitive bidding process.
Ivano Iannelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon, told Khaleej Times that solar energy is now benchmarked at Dh6,000 per Kwp.
"In 2014, the price per Wp was just below a dollar, now it is half of that," said Iannelli.
Shams Dubai has been instrumental in the development of the flourishing solar industry in Dubai and supports the long-term Green Economy for Sustainable Development initiative, to build a green economy.
While installing a solar photovoltaic system requires an initial investment, the electricity generated locally will reduce electricity bills over the lifetime of the system of up to 25 years and beyond if well-maintained.
Dewa had installed solar panels on the roofs of 640 villas belonging to the UAE nationals in Hatta for free to turn residents from energy consumers to producers of clean energy.
Strategy for clean power Shams Dubai initiative supports Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 to generate 7 per cent of Dubai's total power output from clean energy by 2020, 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.
The seven per cent will already be achieved by 2020 through the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park with 1,000 MW of solar energy project to be completed and installed.
The remaining power connected by the Shams Dubai initiative has so far contributed 47.3MW and is continuously increasing over the period of time.
Dewa officials said there is no set target for Shams Dubai as it is based on customer decision to instal such solar panels within their premises.
"Shams Dubai gives Dubai's residents the opportunity to transform their buildings into sustainable ones, reduce the emirate's carbon footprint, and increase the proportion of solar power in Dubai's environment-friendly energy mix," said Al Tayer.
"Through this initiative, community members will promote sustainable development in Dubai and transform the emirate into a global hub for clean energy and green economy," said Al Tayer.
Officials stressed that although solar panels are generally safe to instal, residents must be aware of safety rules and guidelines.
"The equipment are designed to comply with safety guidelines and standards for typical electrical equipment. Dewa has launched the initiative to generate clean energy while complying with health, safety and environment requirements to provide efficient and reliable electricity," an official said in a statement.
However, residents who have installed solar systems should be aware of the safety requirements and should follow all the safety rules and guidelines.
The initiative supports national efforts to increase reliance on clean energy, protect the environment and our natural resources' sustainably, and supports further transformation towards a green economy.
Customers interested to install PV solar panels can visit Dewa's website and check out the Shams Dubai Calculator in the smart initiatives section, to know conditions and requirements of solar installations, and the certified consultants to get in touch with.
To date, Dewa has certified over 446 solar photovoltaic experts, with 96 companies - 85 contractors and 11 consultants - are currently enrolled with Dewa for Shams Dubai.
The equipment eligibility scheme has attracted interest from 100 manufacturers who have registered so far, and 800 equipment have been made eligible for use by Shams Dubai, such as panels, inverters, and interface protections.
'In winter, I barely pay for electricity' Ivano Iannelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon, installed 5.27kw of solar panels on the rooftop of his villa in Dubai in 2014. He produced almost 30MWh of power since installation.
"I recently celebrated my break-even point, as the energy produced was more than expected and brought my break even a few months after the third year," said Iannelli.
While it cost him almost Dh50,000 (Dh10,000 per kwp) in 2014, Iannelli said the price of solar energy dramatically went down over recent years.
"A standard kit would now be around Dh25,000-28,000 per 4.5kwp," he said.
Installing solar panels though went beyond producing clean power and saving consumption off his electricity bills. "My solar canopy actually attracts and retains solar rays, hence my AC works more efficiently beneath the solar canopy shade, thus reducing consumption," said Iannelli.
"As far as electricity is concerned, during the winter I pay almost nothing at all." In summer, he said his bills are cut to 50 per cent.
He added that the second greatest advantage is permanently removing consumption in the highest slab (red, 38 fils/kwh)) and moving down to the second slab pricing (yellow, 28 fils/kwh) in the highest consumption months, thus paying less for electricity per kwh.
Solar power plants, he said, have been expensive because of very limited numbers of providers and little market demand.
Initiatives like Safaqat, a green deal platform, helps residents piggyback on crowdsourcing.
"Leveraging the collective buying power of larger groups, crowdsourcing, we were able to identify a "cheap and cheerful" type of system that works as one-fits-all."
When it comes to safety standards, Iannelli said bad installations of any electrical equipment causes shocks. However, the privilege of Shams Dubai lies in Dewa never allowing improper installations to be commissioned.
"Numerous projects have been stalled because of cutting corners and it is not allowed to connect before 100 per cent compliance to the standards," said Iannelli.
Each of his panels produces low current (12-15v) which by itself would not cause any harm at a residential property. He added that when fully installed in a power plant, proper grounding and specs have to be met to ensure that end users are not at risk.
"If you wish to be safe, make sure that the solar panel system is Shams-approved," said Iannelli.
And when it comes to cleaning the solar panels, Iannelli said he uses the help of his gardener who goes up the roof once a month. After strapping in for safety reasons, he uses a pressurised water spray bottle (similar to those used for car cleaning and pest control) and a telescopic glass wiper.
It takes him 30 minutes to clean the 36sqm solar canopy.
To encourage residents to instal solar panels, Iannelli said the key is to make it simple. "Now the process - despite being a lot easier than when I personally did it - is still somewhat cumbersome."
He added that Dubai Carbon is currently working with developers and banks to make it as simple as possible.
"Every hurdle is potentially a barrier and markets have been responding very quickly to the opportunities," he said.
Sherouk Zakaria "Born and raised in UAE, Sherouk Zakaria is a Senior Correspondent at Khaleej Times. Joined since May 2016, she covers Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), special events and humanitarian issues. Her choice of journalism as a career stems from her passion of telling people's stories and writing to inspire or make a difference. In her free time, she's an occasional theater and film actress. Sherouk received her BA in Mass Communications from the American University in Sharjah in 2013. Before joining Khaleej Times, she was a senior lifestyle/entertainment editor for a magazine in Dubai."