COVID-19 crisis causes solar energy pioneer to shut down
Oman’s energy major Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has announced that work will continue on its Miraah solar farm project, despite its key technology partner, the US-based GlassPoint Solar, going into liquidation.
According to a report by the Oman Daily Observer, PDO’s giant 1,021MW solar farm is currently in an advanced stage of implementation at the Amal field in the south of the Sultanate. The State General Reserve Fund (SGRF), the largest sovereign wealth fund in Oman, owns 31% of shares in GlassPoint Solar, which is headquartered in California. Royal Dutch Shell is also a major stakeholder.
Construction on the project began in October 2015, and part of the vast scheme is already in operation. At full capacity, the plant will feature a total of 36 glasshouse modules, covering an area of more than 360 football pitches, the report added.
The report said that GlassPoint Solar, regarded as a pioneer in the of solar energy for steam generation in heavy oil production, was facing liquidation in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
On May 16, 2020, PDO released a statement addressing GlassPoint Solar’s liquidation, stating that: “PDO is proud of the flagship Miraah project delivered using GlassPoint technology in our Amal solar steam operations. PDO is fully equipped to operate the solar facilities to its full potential and remains firmly committed to renewable energy and its ongoing transition to a fully-fledged energy company.”
In recent years, the Sultanate had emerged as a key focal point for GlassPoint Solar’s Middle East operations. In addition to its important partnership with PDO, GlassPoint Solar had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Occidental Oman in November 2018 for the development of a world-scale solar thermal energy, exceeding 2 gigawatts in capacity, at the Mukhaizna heavy oil field in the Sultanate.
After a special board meeting last month, the CEO of Glasspoint Solar wrote to employees that a decision has been taken to immediately place GlassPoint in a voluntary liquidation process.
This followed Mitsui informing the board that due to the very difficult economic circumstances and uncertainty around the global Covid-19 pandemic, it cannot make the necessary and planned investment in GlassPoint at this time.
A Shell spokesperson has been quoted as saying that GlassPoint has not been able to secure the funding needed to allow the company to continue as planned.