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First of its kind - UAE to commission solar-landfill project

Monday, 01 February 2021

The Emirates Waste to Energy Company will undertake this pioneering project to build 120 MW of solar capacity on an existing landfill site.

The Emirates Waste to Energy Company is a joint venture between two local companies - environmental management Bee'ah who own the landfill in question (Al Sa'jah), and Masdar who deal in renewable energy projects.

The solar installation built on a landfill is the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates and is slated for completion in 2023. In proximity to the installation is the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility, with is slated for completion at the end of 2021 and will have a 30 MW capacity.

The announcement of the agreement was made during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (the week of 18 January 2021), hosted by Masdar.

“Masdar is proud to be extending our existing partnership with Bee’ah through the Emirates Waste to Energy Company to develop this landmark project in Sharjah. Waste is a growing issue in the Gulf Cooperation Council region. However, this project highlights how we can utilize closed landfills to deliver clean energy, while simultaneously supporting the UAE’s clean energy targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are confident that this project can become a benchmark for other landfill sites in the region,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar.

“As a pioneer of zero waste solutions, Bee’ah is looking to create new value from capped landfills while supporting the deployment of renewable energy in the UAE and I am confident that we can replicate this same model of success for other cities in the Middle East. Through Emirates Waste to Energy Company, we are proud to be partnering with Masdar to support the UAE’s pioneering sustainability vision,” said Khaled Al Huraimel, group chief executive officer of Bee’ah, chairman of the Emirates Waste to Energy Company.

The drive for solar-landfill - a European and a green certificates perspective

While this solar-landfill project marks a first in the UAE, the technology is not new and there are existing installations in other parts of the world, particularly the US.

Solar-landfill projects take advantage of certain synergies associated with landfill conditions:

  • Evolution of methane (and CO2), from landfill which is considered harmful and must otherwise be flared (burned) if not utilised per EC regulations.
  • Land associated with waste sites is not fit for purpose for most applications due to concerns about foundations and stability of the land atop buried waste. It presents some issues for solar installations but can be worked around as evidenced by a recent Schletter Group project in Austria
  • Sites, where the landfill gas is used locally for power generation, will have existing grid infrastructure which a solar installation could tap into.

The uptake of such projects in Europe appears limited given Europe is trending downwards on municipal waste generation, with many restrictions on what types of waste can be entered into landfills.

Furthermore, biogas production in the EU from landfill gas fell slightly from 2018 to 2019 according to the Biogas Barometer 2020. It is also unclear how much landfill gas is used for on-site grid-connected electricity generation. For example, the Can Mata landfill we reported on at the end of January 2021 conveys much of the gas output to a local factory rather than for public power generation.

Insolation will also play a large role in determining the output of a solar installation and how feasible it will be; it is expected that this technology would be more viable in Mediterranean nations than in the Nordics. Paradoxically, the Nordics tend to produce a higher amount of waste per capita than the sunnier Mediterranean countries.

From a green certificates perspective, generation from novel solar-landfill installations may attract higher premiums; given the overall sustainability of these sites in producing renewable electricity and/or gas as well as sustainable land usage and methane capture, ecolabels may see much value in sourcing certificates for production from such operational sites.


Power Engineering International

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