The Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), has developed a solar atlas to quantify Qatar‘s solar resource and its geographical distribution.
She explained that the atlas uses existing ground measured radiometric data that have been compared with available solar radiation data derived from satellite images in order to generate a model which, after proper validation, has been used to fit satellite data optimally to the local conditions of Qatar. “This has allowed us to improve the forecasting reliability of PV production, and to find the best suitable location and operation characteristics of large-scale solar power plants,” she added.
For rooftop applications, the researchers developed a specific tool. In this regard, QEERI’s Energy Center has partnered with the country’s Ministry of Municipality & Environment (MME) and the company Mapdwell, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that provides advanced tools for energy decision making, to develop a comprehensive solar analysis tool for rooftop PV assessment in Education City in Qatar Foundation (QF).
“QEERI managed the project and provided the solar radiation and meteorological measurements that formed some of the basic data inputs,” Bermudez explained. MME provided the underlying light detection and ranging (LiDAR) system, aerial photography, and geographic information systems datasets that completed the data requirements for the project and Mapdwell developed the rooftop PV potential assessment application using its platform with the input QEERI and MME data.
“The maps show that the yearly sum of global horizontal irradiation is in the range of 2000 to 2200 kWh/m2,” Bermudez stated. “GHI is distributed more homogeneously throughout the country, while direct normal irradiance (DNI) exhibits higher variability as a consequence of the high aerosol loads; which have, also, a different seasonal behavior affecting the spatial distribution.” According to her, the seasonal variability is very low, compared with other countries, which qualifies Qatar as a country with highly feasible potential for PV power generation.
Despite this huge potential, Qatar has seen so far a very limited development of both rooftop and large-scale solar. According to the latest statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Middle Eastern country had just 5 MW of installed solar power at the end of 2020. A promising development for utility-scale PV, however, came in January 2020, when Qatar General Electricity and Water Corp (Kahramaa) revealed an 800 MW solar tender delivered a final price of QAR0.0571/kWh ($0.016/kWh) – at the time, the lowest winning bid ever registered in an auction for large scale renewable energy.
As for distributed generation, Bermudez said that the lack of incentives provided by the government for homeowners and businesses to adopt solar technology at the domestic level is expected to restrain the growth of the solar energy market in Qatar.