The Shams concentrated solar energy plant has opened in Abu Dhabi’s western region.

1363524327_18mar13-solarplant-shams1Shams 1 is the largest concentrated solar power plant (CSP) in the world. It will produce 100MW of power, sufficient to provide energy to about 20,000 homes.

It covers an area of 2.5km2 – or 285 football fields – and features more than 258,000 mirrors mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. By concentrating heat from direct sunlight onto oil-filled pipes, Shams 1produces 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.

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan described it as an “outstanding achievement” in terms of the UAE’s aim of diversifying its economy and sources of energy.

“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a major milestone in our country’s economic diversification and a step toward long-term energy security,” he added.

He expressed his pride at the young Emiratis who had worked on the project, saying that the expertise they gained, through working closely with international companies on building a project of such scale, is the type of development of the country’s human capital that will enable it to secure its long-term leadership in the energy field.

“With the demand for energy rising exponentially, the region is undergoing a major transformation in how it generates electricity,” said Masdar CEO Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also a minister of state. “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.”

Shams 1 was designed and developed by Shams Power Company, a joint venture between Masdar (60%), Total (20%) and Abengoa Solar (20%). With the opening of Shams 1, Masdar’s renewable energy portfolio accounts for almost 68% of the Gulf’s renewable energy capacity and close to 10% of the world’s installed CSP capacity.

The CSP project reduces the UAE’s carbon emissions, displacing approximately 175,000t of CO2 per year, equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees, or taking 15,000 cars off the road. 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.

“As a long-lasting partner of Abu Dhabi, we are particularly proud to have been part of the challenging adventure that was Shams 1 construction. This is a major step in the process of transforming the capabilities of solar power in the region,” said Christophe de Margerie, chairman and CEO of Total. “We share Abu Dhabi’s vision that renewables have a promising future alongside fossil energies. Total is today a world leader in solar industry. As such, we are pleased to accompany the Emirate in the diversification of its energy mix.”

“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.”

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