Masdar Awards $600 Million Contract for ‘World’s Largest’ Thermal Solar Plant in UAE

Solar field planned for UAEThe United Arab Emirates’s Shams 1 project will incorporate hundreds of parabolic trough collectors. (Image via Solar Thermal Magazine)

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar clean energy company has awarded a $600 million contract to a European consortium – the Spanish solar company Abengoa and the French oil and gas group Total – to build what it is billing as the world’s biggest single-site solar power plant.

The solar plant, named Shams 1, will be located at Madinat Zayed, about 120 kilometers southwest of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Under the contract, the 100 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) facility is to be ready by the second half of 2012. Masdar will maintain a 60% stake in the project, while each of the European partners will hold a 20% share.

As noted in the Abu Dhabi daily The National, the project represents Abu Dhabi’s biggest commitment to renewable energy to date and will be 10 times larger than the company’s existing solar panel array at Masdar City.

Abu Dhabi has set a goal of generating 7% of its power capacity via renewable energy by the year 2020.

According to the Solar Thermal Magazine, Shams 1 will be the largest CSP plant in the world, extending over an area of 2.5 square kilometers and featuring a solar field of 768 parabolic trough collectors.

(“Bragging rights” about being the world’s biggest CSP plant may be shortlived: For example, a CSP plant of similar power generation capacity is planned for Jordan – the JOAN1 project, and a complex of three CSP plants, generating a total of 400MW is slated for California – the BrightSource Ivanpah project.)

Milestone for Masdar

In announcing the contract, Masdar’s CEO, Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber said: “The launch of the Shams 1 marks a very important milestone for Masdar and for Abu Dhabi… this project, which will be the first utility scale, commercial solar power project in the UAE, represents the translation into reality of the vision the Abu Dhabi leadership had for renewable energy in the emirate.

“In addition, Shams 1 will allow Masdar to transfer to Abu Dhabi the know-how and expertise we have gained from our involvement in developing world-class renewable energy projects abroad, thus not only opening the door for renewable energy projects in the UAE but also for technology transfer, contributing toward the development of a knowledge-based economy and new job opportunities through the specializations required to manage and operate the plant.”

According to the Solar Thermal Magazine, Shams 1 is the first CSP plant registered under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and is eligible for carbon credits. It will displace approximately 175,000 ton of CO2 per year, the equivalent of planting 1.5 million trees or removing 15,000 cars from Abu Dhabi’s roads.

:: Solar Thermal Magazine
::  The National

Read more about CSP projects and Masdar:
BrightSource Gets a Billion
MENA Cleantech Sees ‘Existential Need’ for CSP
Masdar and Partners To Undergo Solar PV Feasibility Study

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