UAE sets new record for cheapest solar

The United Arab Emirates set a record for the world’s most affordable solar power earlier this week when renewable energy developers bid as little as 2.99 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour to build a solar park in Dubai.

The developers were bidding to develop the 800-megawatt third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum solar park for the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority, which is a utility of the UAE. The record-breaking bid -- 15 percent lower than the previous record set in Mexico last month, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports -- which promises to undercut even coal-fired power generating systems, was announced Sunday by the Authority.

“This bid tells us that some bidders are willing to risk a lot for the prestige of being the cheapest solar developer,” Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF, told Bloomberg News. “Nobody knows how it’s meant to work.”

Other countries to have held the title of the world’s cheapest solar power producer in the recent past include Saudi Arabia, Peru and Mexico.

Dubai’s utility did not identify the developers bidding on the project, although other reports have suggested it came from a group of companies based in Abu Dhabi, Spain (recently reported as one of the world's top solar power-generating countries) and Saudi Arabia. Those speculations have not been confirmed, but the utility did announce that the record-breaker was among five bids it has received to complete phase three of the solar project.

The utility has yet to award building permits, but preliminary plans for the facility include an operating capacity of 5 gigawatts by 2030.