The world’s largest concentrated solar power plant has opened for business at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.
The 100-megawatt Shams 1 will power 20,000 homes, displacing approximately 175,000 tonnes of CO₂ per year, an equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees, or taking 15,000 cars off the road.
Covering the equivalent of 285 football fields, the site features more than 258,000 mirrors mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors.
With solar power generated during peak demand, the UAE can reduce its need for “peak shaving” generators, which are expensive and idle most of the year.
Masdar CEO Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber hailed the launch as a “breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East.”
“With the demand for energy rising exponentially, the region is undergoing a major transformation in how it generates electricity,” he said.
“In fact, the Middle East is poised for major investments in renewables, and Shams 1 proves the economic and environmental advantage of deploying large-scale solar projects.”
Masdar has been at the forefront of Middle East efforts to make the transition from a fossil fuel based economy to renewable energy, exploiting its vast solar potential.
Director of Sustainability Nawal Al-Hosany told RTCC the oil and gas-rich Middle East is now at an “action tipping point”, which will see increasing investments in solar technology and efficient buildings in the coming decade.
“There is huge interest from the whole Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who see it as an opportunity not only to retain energy sector leadership but also to secure their energy sources, because demand is growing, and they want to be in an industry that is emerging,” she said.
The project was designed and developed by Shams Power Company, a joint venture between Masdar (60%), Total (20%) and Abengoa Solar (20%).
With the addition of Shams 1, Masdar’s renewable energy portfolio accounts for almost 68% of the Gulf’s renewable energy
By concentrating heat from direct sunlight onto oil-filled pipes, Shams 1 produces steam, which drives a turbine and generates electricity.
The project uses a booster heater to heat steam as it enters the turbine, dramatically boosting the cycle’s efficiency.
Shams 1 also features a dry-cooling system that significantly reduces water consumption – a critical advantage in the arid desert.