Oman’s Rural Areas Electricity Company (Raeco) plans to install the country’s first solar capacity as part of a hybrid power plant to be built under the Authority for Electricity Regulation’s (AER’s) rural areas program. Raeco signed a 20-year power purchase agreement on 14 November with India’s Astonfield and local firm Multi Tech for a solar/diesel hybrid power plant to be built at Al-Mazyunah in southern Oman. The pilot photovoltaic (PV) solar unit will have 303KW capacity and is expected to supply 558MWh of power a year. Start-up is scheduled for June 2014.

AER decreed in March that Raeco must incorporate renewables technology – either solar or wind – in each project for which it seeks authority funding. AER estimates Raeco’s total generating capacity at 282MW from 45 diesel-fired plants. Most of Oman’s capacity is linked to two grids: the Main Interconnected System (MIS) and the Salalah system. This year peak MIS demand is expected to reach 4.82GW, with 424MW in Salalah (MEES, 24 May). But off-grid rural demand is growing faster than in the main networks, having recorded an 11.6% increase from 2010 to 2011 (MEES, 10 May). (CONTINUED - 288 WORDS)