OPWP to assess Oman’s potential for new wind farms

MUSCAT, JULY 21 – With Oman’s maiden utility scale wind farm project less than a year away from being brought into commercial operation, the Sultanate’s main utility that procures new electricity and water capacity is embarking on a comprehensive assessment of the potential for developing new wind power projects at key locations around the country. The state-owned utility, Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), is preparing to commission a specialized company to undertake a Wind Resource Assessment campaign, which will provide the basis for pinpointing ideal locations for future wind farms.

“Under the WRA, OPWP plans to install a number of wind monitoring stations at sites that provide the highest potential for development,” said the procurer. “These stations will provide data at 10-minute intervals, at various heights up to 80 metres, to support wind project development. This data will be published on OPWP’s website and provided in RFP documents when the projects are tendered. OPWP recognizes that providing this data openly is key in securing competitive financing and leads to an overall lower risk profile of the intended project,” OPWP — part of Nama Group — explained in its newly published 7-Year Outlook Statement covering the 2019-2025 timeframe.

The announcement comes as the Sultanate’s first commercial wind farm — a 50-MW project nearing completion at Harweel in Dhofar Governorate — is slated for commercial launch in 2020. The plant will be operated by the Rural Areas Electricity Company (REACO) — part of Nama Group — under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with OPWP. Given the intermittency and seasonality of wind resources, getting up-to-date data on wind intensity is key to identifying the most viable locations that offer optimal conditions for wind power generation, says OPWP.
“The most promising areas for onshore wind energy development are in coastal highland areas of Dhofar and Al Wusta governorates, although certain mountainous areas of Sharqiyah Governorate also have potential,” the utility points out.
As part of its commitment to securing a minimum 10 per cent share of domestic power supply from renewable energy resources, OPWP plans to procure a handful of wind energy projects over the next seven years. Each wind farm will offer between 100 to 200 MW of capacity.
Wusta Governorate — Duqm in particular — is seen as promising for utility-scale wind power development. But with much of this area lying far beyond the reaches of existing electricity grids, wind power investments in windswept parts of the governorate will be a non-starter in the current circumstances, say experts.
OPWP however is banking on the implementation of the landmark North-South Interconnection Project, which will link the grids of North Oman (Main Interconnection System) and Dhofar Power System via that of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). Phase 1 of the ambitious linkage, centring on a 400 kV transmission line from Izki to Duqm, is expected to be completed in 2023.
“Hence, the wind energy development in sites of high value for the MIS is linked to the transmission line development. In parallel, OPWP is also assessing the development of wind projects in sites that are already in close proximity to the MIS, such as in the Al Sharqiyah Governorate. The first project is scheduled to reach Commercial Operation Date (COD) in 2024. The project procurement would initiate the qualifications process in 2021,” the power procurer said.
Dhofar Governorate is also seen as promising for renewable energy development, according to OPWP. It explained: “OPWP has no plans to procure new gas-fired generation capacity for the Dhofar Power System (DPS) but plans additional renewable energy development. The Dhofar region has excellent potential for wind energy development; Consequently, OPWP has plans to develop a second wind energy farm. The timing and capacity of the project are subject to the outcome of a Master Plan currently under study by Oman Electricity Transmission Company (OETC) that will assess the ability of the DPS to integrate higher levels of renewable penetration. When the North-South Interconnect project is completed to Dhofar, OPWP expects to develop more wind energy projects in the DPS,” it added.