AMMAN — A major developer in Aqaba on Tuesday connected a 3.2 megawatt (MW) solar power plant to the national electricity grid, launching one of the largest private renewable energy projects in the region.

Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) Chief Commissioner Hani Mulki acted as patron at a ceremony held by Ayla Oasis to officially launch the project.

The power generated will be used to operate the seawater pumping station that feeds a chain of lagoons at Ayla’s project in Aqaba.

Ayla managing director Sahl Dudin was quoted in a statement as saying that the pumping capacity is approximately one million cubic metres of seawater daily.

The man-made lagoons, which cover a total area of 750,000 square metres, added 17km of new water frontage to Aqaba, increasing the area’s waterline by 52 per cent.

Mulki said the project “represents a cornerstone to serve huge investments and ensure operations and sustainability, through facilitating energy production”.

He encouraged other investors to follow suit, as the reduction in the energy bill adds to the feasibility of development projects in the special economic zone, where the sun shines almost the entire year.

According to Dudin, the electricity bill for water pumping used to amount to JD100,000 a month before the solar station was operated.

He added that the cost of the project, around JD9 million, is expected to be recovered in four years.

In the statement, Dudin noted that in addition to the economic benefits, the project is also part of Ayla Oasis’ corporate social responsibility, as it serves the environment.

Ayla is considered a green project. For example, he said, elements in Aqaba’s nature were used in the building, replacing steel in certain parts.

In particular, Dudin referred to highly pure silica brought from Humaimeh, 30km north of the port city, and the granite stones of volcanic origin from the mountains surrounding Aqaba. The two ingredients are part of a mix that was used to build all the walls and structures related to the lagoon component.

Ayla has a future plan to produce more solar energy on site with a capacity of 2.6MW to power desalination, irrigation and water circulation at an 18-hole golf course currently under construction, Dudin told The Jordan Times Tuesday.

The irrigation of the golf course and the desalination of 5,000 cubic metres is powered by electricity now, at a cost of around JD60,000 a year. This figure will be reduced to a minimal cost when the company obtains the required licences to operate the new phase.

With this addition, Dudin said, the total capacity of the two phases will reach up to 5.8MW, making it the largest renewable energy project in the region.