On Sunday 18th, Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties to win the World Cup in a sensational fashion. This article looks at why solar panels were the real winners of the Qatar World Cup.
According to a 2021 report, it was estimated that Qatar 2022 would generate about 3.6 million tons of carbon emissions. Tournament organisers, FIFA and Qatari authorities committed to delivering, for the first time, a carbon-neutral World Cup. Efforts at achieving this objective included free public transport for fans and officials, the cancellation of domestic flights, green building practices, extensive recycling and composting, and the use of electric vehicles.
The mainstay of these efforts was the 800MW Al Kharsaah Solar PV Independent Power Producer. Costing about $467 million, the IPP was launched in 2016 in partnership with France's TotalEnergies, Qatar's QatarEnergy and Japan's Marubeni. It was inaugurated on the 18th of October, 2022.
The solar farm covered about10 square kilometres (the equivalent of roughly 1,400 football fields) and incorporated approximately 2 million bifacial solar panels mounted on trackers. It incorporated 3,240 installed string inverters to allow for better tracking of the maximum power point at the string level. It also featured a semi-automated cleaning system that cleans the dust and sand off every single module once every four days.
Insanely high temperatures in the region were the main reason the World Cup was, controversially, moved from June-July to November-December. In June-July, temperatures reach up to 42C. Despite widespread opposition, Qatari officials insisted that the switch to November-December when temperatures dropped to about 24C, was a key part of their bid to host the competition, and FIFA ratified the decision after a 2018 feasibility study which included the installation of fully-functioning air conditioners in all the eight stadiums for the tournament.
While it did certainly not provide all the power for the event and while a power audit will determine whether Qatar was in fact a net-zero or carbon-neutral World Cup, it played the central role in mitigating the concerns about cooling by powering the air-conditioning systems of all the eight stadiums, and setting what could be a precedent for future World Cups.