With 258,000 mirrors on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors harnessing the sun’s energy to power a steam turbine, the plant developed by Shams Power Company occupies an area of 2.5 square kilometers or 285 football fields. Now that it is live, it is expected to generate sufficient energy to power 20,000 homes and divert 170,000 tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere each year.
It cost $600 million USD and took three years to build Shams 1 about 120km outside of Abu Dhabi. It features the most current parabolic trough technology, which made the most sense at the time that the project was conceived, and includes a natural gas-powered booster that maximizes the steam generation’s efficiency.
Masdar owns 60 percent of the plant, while Total and Abengoa each have a 20 percent stake in what Masdar claims is the largest plant of its kind.
“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a major breakthrough for renewable energy in the Middle East,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar.
“Just like the rest of the word, the region is faced with meeting its rising demand for energy, while also working to reduce its carbon footprint. Shams 1 is a significant milestone, as large-scale renewable energy is proving it can deliver electricity that is sustainable, affordable and secure.”
Probably more than any other Gulf nation, the United Arab Emirates has employed an aggressive strategy to scale up its renewable energy portfolio.
Not only are several solar power plants in the works, but in January the government-backed Masdar initiative announced plans to develop desalination plants that are powered by clean energy to further reduce fossil fuel consumption.
“Abu Dhabi is investing and incubating a new energy industry, domestically and internationally,” said Dr. Al Jaber.
“Through Masdar, the UAE is redefining the role it plays in providing the world with energy. From precious hydrocarbon exports to sophisticated renewable energy systems, we are balancing the energy mix and diversifying our economy – moving toward a more sustainable future. Today, the UAE is the only OPEC nation delivering both hydrocarbons and renewable energy to the international market.”
Now that Shams 1 is online, renewable energy produced by Masdar accounts for 68 percent of the Gulf’s capacity and 10 percent of the world’s CSP capacity. This is in part due to projects that Masdar has partnered with abroad, including the Gemasolar CSP plant in Spain.
“The Middle East holds nearly half of the world’s renewable energy potential,” said Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar. “The abundance of solar energy is an opportunity to integrate sustainable, clean sources of power that address energy security and climate change. The region needs more projects like Shams 1, and we look forward to pushing the boundaries of future energy.”