UAE’s Masdar has signed agreements to develop a utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) project in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The plant is expected to start commercial operations in early 2023.

The 230-megawatt (MWac) project is the country’s first foreign investment-based independent solar project structured as a public-private partnership. It entails developing, financing, constructing, and operating the plant, to be located nine kilometers northwest of the Alat settlement in Azerbaijan.

Masdar signed the implementation agreement for the project in January last year. Azerbaijan is targeting to increase its installed power capacity to 30 per cent from renewable sources by 2030, as the country looks to diversify its economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Central Asian country has an estimated solar energy potential of 23,040 MW, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The latest solar project will help to generate half a billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to meet the needs of more than 110,000 homes, and will reduce emissions by 200,000 tons a year, reported UAE’s state news agency WAM.

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, CEO of Masdar, signed an investment agreement for the project with Parviz Shahbazov, Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan, and a power purchase agreement and transmission connection agreement with Baba Rzayev, President of Azerenerji OJSC, the national electrical power company and off-taker for the project.

Azerbaijan’s minister of energy, Shahbazov, said: “The transformation of Azerbaijan into a country of ‘green growth’ through the extensive use of renewable energy sources over the next 10 years has been defined by Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan as one of the national priorities that will ensure socio-economic development.

“By signing these contracts for a solar power plant worth about $200m, we are one step closer to our goals for renewable energy and carbon emissions. The solar power plant to be built in Baku and Absheron district will produce about 500 million kWh of electricity annually, save 110 million cubic meters of natural gas, [and] create new jobs.”

Rzayev, president of Azerenerji OJSC, meanwhile reiterated the importance of wind and solar energy pilot projects in the course of diversifying the energy production of Azerbaijan, which has become an exporter of electricity along with ensuring its energy security, through renewable energy sources.

“According to the signed agreements, the connection of the 230 MW power plant to be built by the company to the network and the purchase of electricity generated at the plant will be performed by Azerenerji OJS. The power plant will be integrated into the energy system by connecting to the “Janub” substation,” said Rzayev.

The UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and chairman of Masdar Dr. Al Jaber added: “For the UAE, it is important that our actions on climate always amplify the efforts of others around the world. This partnership with Azerbaijan is a great opportunity to leverage our collective wills on this key issue to work towards meeting global climate goals, reducing environmental impacts and creating new knowledge, skills and jobs.”