By Rhona Wells
30/4/2021: Electricity output from the Dhofar Wind Power project – the first utility-scale wind farm facility in the Sultanate – totaled an impressive 74 gigawatt-hours (GWh) over the eight months since it began operations in late 2020, underscoring the promising potential of wind resources as a sustainable energy source for Oman.
The wind farm, operated by the Rural Areas Electricity Company (Tanweer) – part of wholly government-owned Nama Group — came online in November 2020, marking the advent of wind-based power generation in the Gulf region.
The 50-megawatt-capacity farm, featuring 13 wind turbines of around 3.8 MW capacity each, is located at Harweel – a windswept part of Dhofar Governorate in the south of Oman. The output from the plant is entrusted to Oman Power and Water Procurement Company (OPWP), also a subsidiary of Nama Group, under a long-term Power Purchase Agreement signed with Tanweer.
Oman is committed to harnessing renewable energy resources for at least 10% of its domestic electricity requirement by 2025 – part of an ambitious strategy to reduce the Sultanate’s longstanding dependence on valuable natural gas as the principal fuel resource for power generation. While solar energy will account for a dominant share of renewables-based electricity generation, wind resources are envisioned to make a modest, but notable, contribution as well.
Ahead of the planned build-up of wind-based power generation capacity, OPWP – the sole procurer of new power generation and water desalination capacity under the sector law – has kicked off a wind resource assessment (WRA) programme, which is a prerequisite for evaluating the feasibility of a wind power project at a given location.
As part of the initiative, tall masts fitted with wind measuring instruments have been erected at locations tipped to host large-scale wind power projects. At present, wind resource assessment studies are focused on two candidate locations: one in Jaalan Bani Bu Ali in North Al Sharqiyah Governorate, and the other in Duqm.
According to OPWP, Oman has excellent potential for wind energy development with wind speeds as high as 8 – 10 metres/second at numerous onshore sites, even during the summer months. Offshore development may also have large potential as well.
The next big commercial-scale wind project – a 100 MW capacity farm – is planned for development in Jaalan Bani Bu Ali during 2024. It will be the first wind power project within the Main Interconnected System (MIS) – the grid that covers much of the northern half of the Sultanate.
A planned interconnection between the MIS and Duqm, the site of a mega industrial and economic free zone, will enable the development of wind farms that capitalize on the huge wind potential of the hinterland of Al Wusta Governorate. Onward interconnectivity with the Dhofar Power System in the south of the country will also open up Thamrait and other parts of Dhofar to investments in new wind power capacity, according to OPWP.
Majority state-owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the country’s largest producer of hydrocarbons, is also actively investing in wind farms as part of a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.