A Sunny Start: The Al Kharsaah Solar Power Plant InauguratedQatar’s First Large-Scale Solar Power Plant
Contributing to Achieving Carbon Neutrality

The Al Kharsaah solar power plant in Qatar has gotten off to a sunny start! The Marubeni investment-backed plant was inaugurated in October.
What does the Al Kharsaah solar power plant, as well as Marubeni’s strategy to become a forerunner in green business in its mid-term management strategy GC2024, aim to provide for the future? Read on to find out!

A Vast Area for Solar Power Generation:
1.8 Million Solar Panels Across 10 Square Kilometers

Imagine row after row of solar panels reaching toward the desert horizon. This is the reality of the Al Kharsaah solar power plant, where a total of 1.8 million panels are installed across a vast area of 10 square kilometers—the equivalent of almost 4 square miles or roughly the size of Tokyo’s Chuo Ward. This Marubeni investment-backed plant, which was inaugurated on October 18, is the first large-scale solar power generation project in Qatar, with a maximum output of 800 MW. The power generated will be sold to Qatar’s General Electricity & Water Corporation Kahramaa under a long-term contract of 25 years.

Since the early 2000s, Marubeni has been participating in a variety of power projects across several regions as an IPP (Independent Power Producer) that operates its own power plants and sells electricity to power companies. The company has a particularly strong presence in the Middle Eastern market, where it currently owns 14 thermal and solar power plants with a total power generation capacity of approximately 16 gigawatts. Qatar’s Al Kharsaah solar power plant is Marubeni’s third large-scale solar project in the region, following the company’s first two large-scale solar projects in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

Saving Oil and Natural Gas for Export:
Reducing Domestic Consumption and Promoting Renewable Energy

What does the Al Kharsaah solar power plant mean for Qatar?
Mr. Atsushi Kono, a Marubeni employee who has been stationed in Doha since August 2020 and is currently on assignment to the company in charge of the project, says that the plant will contribute to three key areas, the first of which is curtailing the domestic use of oil and natural gas. “Qatar’s abundant oil and natural gas are valuable export resources for earning foreign currency, so the country is looking to diversify power sources to reduce domestic consumption of these resources as much as possible,” he explains.

The second key area is contributing human resource development. “This is a major pillar supporting the future of Qatar,” says Mr. Kono. “The Al Kharsaah solar power project will bring valuable solar power generation knowledge to the country. The many Qatari people who will participate in this project going forward will gain crucial experience, and soon, they will be the ones taking the lead in promoting solar power generation projects here.”

The plant’s third crucial contribution is helping to push for carbon neutrality in Qatar, which has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030. The Al Kharsaah solar power plant is the first step toward achieving this goal and, depending on the season, will provide about 10% of Qatar’s domestic electricity needs.

Competitive Advantage through Solar Radiation and Economies of Scale:
Selling Electricity at Approx. 10% of Japan Prices

Oil-producing countries in the Middle East have a clear reason for adopting renewable energy, especially solar power generation: the region’s unique location and cost advantages now make it a good choice for domestic demand. Until about 10 years ago, solar power generation was not a cost-effective power source, even in regions with the perfect amount of solar radiation. As solar power spread around the world, however, equipment and devices for this method of energy generation began to be mass-produced, resulting in a dramatic drop in the prices of solar panels and other modules. Given this increased affordability, Middle Eastern countries began to shift to renewable energy five to six years ago.

The Middle East is the most suitable place for solar power generation, meeting the two key conditions for this form of energy production: an excellent amount of solar radiation and a vast available land area for equipment installation. The selling price of electricity is about 1.5 to 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour, which is approximately 10% of the price in Japan. By taking full advantage of its abundant solar radiation and economies of scale of land, the Middle East is becoming more and more competitive in the solar power generation field.

From Development to Implementation and Operation:
Leveraging Marubeni’s 20 Years of Expertise

As a Middle Eastern country, Qatar was already a perfect place for a large-scale solar power plant, but what about the expertise needed to develop and operate it effectively? This is where Marubeni, with its 20-plus-years of experience as an IPP, came in. According to Mr. Kono of Marubeni, “IPP projects are divided into two phases: development and implementation/operation.” The three main points considered during the development phase are (1) plant design capability, (2) competitive procurement capability, such as having the knowledge and networks required to procure equipment from suppliers at competitive costs, and (3) the ability to arrange financing through project finance. Through its decades of experience, Marubeni has acquired project management capabilities that encompass these three key points. One example of a point of consideration needed for plant design capabilities is selecting equipment and panel cleaning methods that are suitable for the plant location’s climate conditions. At the Al Kharsaah solar power plant, semi-automatic robots have been installed to clean sand and dust from the solar panels. Mr. Kono explains, “We selected this method after conducting repeated simulations and considering what panel arrangement and operation would be most efficient in preventing shadows from interfering with the panels as much as possible.”

The Al Kharsaah plant’s implementation and operation is handled by a company established in Dubai, which is responsible for the development, sales, and asset management of all 14 Marubeni projects in the Middle East. This company monitors the operational status of each power plant and provides appropriate advice to the involved Marubeni subsidiaries.

“Together, We Can Go Further.”

Al Kharsaah Solar Power, which operates the plant, is owned by three companies: Marubeni (20.4%), France’s TotalEnergies SE (19.6%), and Qatari shareholders (60%). Marubeni has dispatched three key personnel to the company: one director, one construction director, and one CFO (Chief Financial Officer). Marubeni’s role, says Mr. Kono, “is to handle the decision-making process while taking the lead in the commercial, financial, construction, and operational aspects of the plant, and to make sure that day-to-day operations are well executed.”

Marubeni is proud that the Al Kharsaah solar power plant project, accomplished by many working in tandem to contribute to the future of Qatar, embodies the spirit of the message the company has been sending out into the world: “Together, we can go further.” Mr. Kono concludes, “In the development stage of an IPP business, the most important thing is to collaborate with specialists in various fields, such as technology, finance, accounting, legal affairs, and the environment, to create highly competitive bids. Marubeni was honored to serve as the overall coordinator for this project, and we are proud that we were able to complete this major project as a united team.”

(This is an English translation of an advertisement feature in the Nikkei Electronic Edition provided by Marubeni Corporation.)

Marubeni’s Green Strategy:
Becoming a Forerunner in Green Business

Marubeni set forth green strategy as one of the fundamental policies of GC2024, the company’s current mid-term management strategy. A key component of this strategy is strengthening Marubeni’s green businesses, such as businesses that contribute to decarbonization, the circular economy, water resources, and biodiversity. This is exemplified by renewable energy projects, including the Al Kharsaah solar power generation project, forestry and afforestation projects, and water projects, as well as new energy projects, such as ammonia and hydrogen, and resource and material recycling projects. Marubeni is also in the process of “greening” all of its businesses through reducing their environmental impact, shifting to a circular economy, and pursuing sustainable supply chains, which includes developing carbon-free products and services, recycling waste, and shifting to environmentally friendly materials. Through these initiatives, Marubeni will keep moving forward to become a forerunner in green business.