Plans for solar, coal-based power generation move forward in Oman

The tendering process for the establishment of Oman’s first large-scale solar Independent Power Project is expected to kick off before the end of this year, according to a top official of Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), the sole procurer of new electricity generation and related water desalination capacity in the Sultanate.
Eng Yaqoob bin Saif al Kiyumi (pictured), Chief Executive Officer — OPWP, also revealed that significant headway is being made in weighing the feasibility of utilising coal for power generation for the first time in the Sultanate. The move, if eventually given the green light by the Omani government, will contribute to a diversified energy mix in a departure from the nation’s present dependence on natural gas as a fuel resource for electricity generation and water desalination.
“We are presently working on the qualification procedures for a big solar project, a Request for Qualifications (RfQ) for which will be issued before the end of this year,” Eng Al Kiyumi said. “This will be a first ‘child’ in renewables, and one of the big projects of its kind in the region.”
Speaking to journalists soon after signing agreements related to the Dhofar Wind Power project on Tuesday, he said the solar project — of a capacity of a “few hundred megawatts” — will come in one of three likely locations: Ibri, Manah or Adam.
No decision has been taken yet on the configuration of the project or its ultimate location, he explained. “Whether the capacity will be split between multiple locations, we haven’t yet come to that level of detail. Hopefully, we will be able to reach that conclusion before the end of this year. Right now, we are doing the nitty-gritty of the project definition itself. Options to split the capacity among different locations as different project are open for now. Of course, if it is split among different locations, there will be other challenges to encounter, all of which will be taken into consideration.
But it is likely that the first solar project will come up in one location, but options are still open.”
Commenting on efforts to ascertain the viability of coal-based power generation in the Sultanate, Eng Al Kiyumi said state-owned procurer continued to make progress on this front. “We are almost done with the locational and environmental studies, and should hopefully conclude the economic feasibility studies in October.
With that, we should be able to submit our recommendations to the Omani authorities.”
In OPWP’s sights is a coal-based scheme of a capacity of roughly 1,800 MW, give or take 600MW, said Al Kiyumi. “It would definitely have to be done in phases, and we will have to take into consideration the demand growth in that area as well.
We wouldn’t want to have surplus capacity concentrated in one location.”
Duqm, he said, was among multiple locations under consideration for a coal based power plant. The ultimate location would depend on demand growth in that area.
He noted in this regard that Duqm’s current location outside of the two main grids would be a factor that would have to be taken into consideration when eventually deciding on suitable sites. Evacuating surplus power from a plant based in Duqm would be a challenge, he pointed out.

Conrad Prabhu