This article of the Medium is written by Ali Ahmad, Director, Energy Policy and Security Program @ IFI_AUB who wondered whether Lebanon is ready for the renewables procurement through large solar PV farms. Here is his answer.
Following the publication of my post on Lebanon’s potential and readiness to invest in large, utility-scale, solar PV projects, I received a lot of comments citing the issue of incompatibility between Lebanon’s electrical grid and the integration of a large solar PV capacity. Indeed, the case for grid compatibility is often raised as an obstacle to deploying renewables (wind and solar) of power capacity higher than 200 MW.
For those who don’t know what the gird is or what it does, it is a network that delivers power from generating source to the end user. The grid is composed of generating units (power plants), transmission lines, and substations that help distribute power to cities and towns. For more details, check this link.
Consulting with experts who worked on Lebanon’s grid, it was clear to me that the talk about the grid being a limitation to investing in utility-scale solar plants of capacity higher than 200 MW is nonsense. Except perhaps beyond a certain upper limit of 1000 MW, where additional investments would be required to upgrade the gird and install fiber-optics-based system. Having said that, even for capacities about or higher than 1000 MW, the technology and expertise are readily available.
It is advised, however, in the Lebanese context, that individual large plants should have a capacity between 300 to 500 MW to minimize connection costs. Of course, integrating power capacities in this range would be easier to implement, not only from a grid perspective, but also considering land availability, balanced development, and security. A long term plan, however, would need to accommodate both larger penetration of renewables (more than 1000 MW) and a smarter and stronger grid.
Moving forward, EDL needs to strengthen its grid by speeding up the process of building substations, updating its software where applicable, and push for resolving the Mansourieh muddle, where the installation of a high-voltage connection line has been halted for many years due to the residents of Mansourieh protesting the project out of fear of its health impact.
The Mansourieh connection is of great importance for the stability and security of energy supply not only in the Mansourieh area but all over Lebanon; as well as for the deployment of renewables in Lebanon as it improves the grid’s readiness and reduces transmission losses and costs.
On another sober note, Lebanon’s grid losses are today over 3 times the losses measured in neighboring countries due to technical and non-technical reasons. Something is clearly wrong, and as a start, grid losses need to be lowered…