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Solar projects to power up Oman energy sector

 Jeta Pillai

MUSCAT

The future in the Sultanate belongs to solar energy. That future now appears even more certain with ‘power-to-gas’ technology, which enables storage of excess solar or wind electricity by utilising it to produce fuels like hydrogen and methane.

In 10 years, the Sultanate would be producing more solar power than it could consume during the day and unless that excess electricity was stored, the country would have to depend on natural gas and diesel power plants at night, said Siemens CEO Markus Strohmeier.

Since wind and solar power are available only during certain times of the day, it is vital to be able to convert it into gases like hydrogen or methane and store it for later use.

Strohmeier gave the example of Energie Park, a research project in Mainz, Germany, where excess electricity from wind energy was used for electrolysis of water to produce oxygen, and hydrogen which is stored in tanks.

Currently, a modern gas turbine can use hydrogen as 60 and 80 per cent of its fuel, he said, adding that they were promoting the “power to gas” concept in the Sultanate.

The gas produced with energy from the sun can also be used as feedstock for refineries, fuel for vehicles, houses and buildings, said the CEO.

There was also the possibility of private parties producing hydrogen this way and exporting it by sea or selling it within the country, said Strohmeier. Several large companies wanted the “power to gas” project to be done on 1,000MW scale, he added.

Solar power generation was expanding with increasing efficiency of photovoltaic cells and fall in costs.

Yet, he said, conventional gas and diesel power generation was here to stay for a long time and trigeneration systems that combine heating cooling and power would increase efficiency.

As the Sultanate industrialises, Strohmeier, expects Siemens to get most of its revenues from ‘Digital Factory’ solutions which integrate data for companies from development, production and suppliers.

The company also intends to play a key role in smart buildings and cities, urban transport and megacities.

He feels Omani manufacturing had an advantage as it was still developing and could benefit from additive manufacturing (3D printing).  “Products are designed and tested on software. We generate a digital twin of whatever you want to produce. Once you are satisfied, you use additive manufacturing to produce the part” said Strohmeier.

In the UAE, Siemens had supported Strata in 3D printing Airbus and Boeing aircraft parts, he said, adding that in future manufacturing would be done by software specialists from the office without tools.

Siemens was already printing spare parts for their machines all over the world, he added.

In Oman, “We are doing knowledge transfer, enabling local companies to use our blueprints,” he said.

“Five companies have got licenses from us to produce products mainly in low voltage switchgear arena with our blue prints and we are auditing them” said Strohmeier, adding that Waleed Associates, a partner was the only system integrator for variable frequency drive technology.

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