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Concentrating Solar Power

World’s largest concentrated solar power plant launched in U.A.E.

The world’s largest concentrated solar power plant is now open in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

Shams 1 is a 100-megawatt solar thermal facility commissioned by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, together with French energy company Total and Spain’s energy infrastructure company Abengoa Solar.

Spread across a land area equivalent to 285 football fields, the $600 million solar project is expected to power about 200,000 households in the U.A.E and eliminate about 175,000 tons of carbon emissions annually.

“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a major breakthrough for renewable energy in the Middle East,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chief executive officer 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.”

Located approximately 120 kilometers southwest of Abu Dhabi and 6 km from Madinat Zayed, the C.S.P. plant uses parabolic trough technology, in which over 258,000 mirrors are mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. By means of concentrating heat from sunlight onto oil-filled pipes, the power plant produces steam that drives turbines and generates electricity.

Additionally, it uses a booster to heat steam as it comes in the turbine to increase the cycle’s efficiency and includes a dry-cooling system that reduces water consumption – a significant benefit in the dry desert of western Abu Dhabi.

Since solar power is generated during peak demand, the U.A.E. will be able to reduce its need for “peak shaving” generators, which are costly and idle most of the year.

Shams 1 is the first instalment of the three Shams solar power station in Abu Dhabi. It was designed and developed by Shams Power Company, a special purpose vehicle of Masdar, in collaboration with Total and Abengoa Solar. Masdar holds 60 percent share of the project while Total and Abengoa Solar each has 20 percent share.

With the opening of Shams 1, Masdar now accounts for around 10 percent of the world's concentrated solar power and 68 percent of the Gulf’s renewable energy capacity.

According to Dr. Al Jaber, Abu Dhabi is investing and incubating a new energy industry both domestically and internationally.

“Through Masdar, the U.A.E. 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 U.A.E. is the only O.P.E.C. nation delivering both hydrocarbons and renewable energy to the international market,” he said.

The Middle East, along with North Africa, has immense potential for renewable energy. A GTM report suggested that the region has the largest potential for renewable energy worldwide with most of this potential attributed to solar energy.

“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,” said Santiago Seage, chief executive officer of Abengoa Solar. – C. Dominguez

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