Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (Qeeri), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, is playing an integral role in conducting key research in helping the country harness the power of the sun.
In January, Qatar announced its ambitious plans to develop the Al Kharsaah photovoltaic plant, a solar energy site that is the first step towards the country’s long-term objective to produce 20% of its electricity through solar energy by 2030.
Qeeri is working alongside the winning bidders of the project – France’s Total and Japan’s Marubeni - and the Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) to provide key data and measurability to ensure optimisation in developing the solar plant as part of the Siraj project.
Dr Antonio P Sanfilippo, Dr Veronica Bermudez and Dr Cedric Andre Broussillou are the scientists at the helm of Qeeri’s involvement in the country’s biggest solar project yet. Once fully operational, the 1,000-hectare (10sqkm) plant estimated at QR1.7bn is expected to produce 800MW, accounting for a tenth of the country’s current peak energy demand.
The three scientists and their teams at Qeeri’s Energy Centre have been involved in the project from the outset to ensure the provision of solar measurement data, which is one of the core functions of Qeeri’s energy management programme.
“We have very specialised equipment that records the various components of solar radiation in real-time, and we have 14 solar monitoring stations across Qatar, including one at the Al Kharsaah site,” explained Dr Sanfilippo.
“One key aspect of Qeeri’s involvement in this project is providing precise solar resource data to reduce the risk of error when calculating the bankability - ie how much the solar plant will be able to produce based on the amount of solar power that can be harnessed. In doing so, we provided bidders to Kahramaa’s tender with four years of data from the physical solar stations as well as with data derived from the Qeeri satellite receiver.”
In addition to the data that assisted bidders to assess the bankability of their offers, Qeeri has also developed a solar forecasting service and a solar atlas, according to a press statement. The ability to forecast solar radiation minutes, hours and days ahead is crucial to optimising solar energy integration by ensuring grid stability and efficient use of diverse energy resources, and regulating energy markets. The solar atlas is able to measure different aspects of solar radiation and expected solar output, which can be harvested based on the unique set of environmental challenges facing desert climates.
“The solar atlas that we have developed will assist the country to establish the optimal location to set up future solar plants in Qatar. It measures atlas solar radiation in different locations and the quantity that can be expected for the entire country,” noted Dr Bermudez.
In parallel with the solar atlas, Qeeri has also established a solar consortium with leading local and international partners – Kahramaa, Total, Hanwha QCells – that undertakes key research focused on local climate specificities to further complement their global efforts.
The solar consortium is a research body that is using the test site installed at Qeeri – a 35,000sqm facility – to understand the behaviour of the different technologies of solar photovoltaic (PV) and trackers to address the main challenges from a solar PV operation in Qatar.
“Most of the challenges facing Qatar are related to reliability and soiling, which can negatively affect PV modules, inverters and sun trackers. Through our research, we are assessing the soiling – i.e. how much energy will be lost because of the dust that settles on the modules – which enables us to identify the best technologies to employ to mitigate these challenges and to forecast them in order to reduce the O&M (operations and maintenance) costs,” said Dr Broussillou.
As the Siraj project enters the development phase, Qeeri will continue to provide its expertise and insights to realise and even surpass the targets outlined by Qatar, the statement notes.
“The overall target for 2020 was set at 2% and, based on our calculations, we are set to exceed that and are well on course to meet the 2030 target of 20%,” said Dr Sanfilippo.
Dr Marc Vermeersch, executive director at Qeeri, said: “Embarking on an endeavour of this scale is a major feat for the country, and one that the Qeeri scientists and engineers are honoured to play an extensive role in, working closely with all key stakeholders to support the country in achieving its ambitious sustainable energy goals.
“There has been great synergy between all stakeholders involved. It has been an exciting opportunity for Qeeri to provide its expertise and support from the very beginning. The key research and data we have brought to the table for this exciting and unprecedented project will ensure that the winning bidders are able to reliably provide solar powered electricity to the country.”
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