MUSCAT, SEPT 22 – A world-scale solar farm project of around 1 gigawatts (GW) at full capacity is envisioned for development at Sohar Port and Freezone — part of a multifaceted strategy to support sustainable ‘green’ energy initiatives at the industrial hub. The ambitious project, according to Mark Geilenkirchen, Chief Executive Officer, will be implemented in phases with output earmarked for consumption by industrial tenants at the port and adjoining free zone. “Our renewable energy strategy is taking off,” said Geilenkirchen. “We plan to have a large solar farm that will cater to the energy needs of a few of our industries. We are currently in the phase of signing contracts,” the official told the Observer.
At 1 GW, the Sohar Port solar farm will rival some of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) based ventures currently in operation or under development around the world. It will also roughly match the capacity of the giant Miraah project being developed by California-based GlassPoint Solar for Petroleum Development Oman’s (PDO) heavy oil project at Amal in the south of the Sultanate. However, in place of PV panels, the GlassPoint project utilises curved mirrors to concentrate sunlight and boil water into steam, which is then injected into the reservoir to produce heavy oil.
Commenting on the capacity of the new solar farm project, Geilenkirchen stated: “It would depend on what the customers’ want. We foresee at (full build), the capacity will be 1GW. But we will grow with the (project) company in the Freezone. As we cannot deliver any output back into the grid, we will sell it to industries in our Freezone.”
All of the investments in the proposed solar farm project will be made entirely by the private developer, according to the CEO. “As the landlord, we will be renting out land for the project; we are not the risk-taking partner in the project. Our primary goal is to facilitate the infra development for our tenants.”
Significantly, an investor has already been lined up for the first phase of the massive solar farm, said Geilenkirchen. Further capacity additions are envisioned in trend with demand, he stated.
The proposed solar farm project is a key component of what is billed as the world’s first self-sustaining freezone cluster that will serve as a hub for innovation at the industrial port. Dubbed the ‘Sohar Innovation Zone’, it will create its own energy from renewable resources, recycle its own waste, and will serve as an incubator for initiatives designed to bolster the efficiency of the port’s existing tenants.
Part of the vision behind the Innovation Zone is to create better use of resources between the Port and Freezone’s existing tenants and those looking to setup business. For example, where one company produces steam as a waste product, another may actually need steam for its own industrial processes. By improving the level of connectedness between the tenants’ businesses, the port hopes to help them grow more efficiently with more synergies, thereby contributing to a very positive environmental upside for all stakeholders.