Concentrating Solar Plant Producing Electricity In Abu Dhabi

The 100 megawatt solar concentrating plant we wrote about last month is now producing electricity near Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emerites.

Shams 1 is the first of its kind in the Middle East and one of the biggest in the world, but that’s not what makes it most interesting.

What’s most fascinating is that more countries in the Middle East want to build similarly big solar plants. Why? If they can supply domestic energy from solar they can reserve their oil solely for exports.

Besides, solar projects in the Middle East would bring "thousands of megawatts and billions of dollars in investment," Santiago Seage, the head of Abengoa’s solar unit, told Bloomberg.

Shams 1 was designed and developed by Shams Power Company, a joint venture between Masdar (60%), Total (20%) and Abengoa Solar (20%). 

More than 258,000 mirrors are mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors in 617 acres. Sunlight is concentrated onto oil-filled pipes which produces steam that drives a turbine and generates electricity. A booster heats the steam as it enters the turbine, greatly increasing efficiency and a dry-cooling system dramatically cuts water consumption.

Concentrating Solar

While solar PV is more economical, the heated liquids produced by concentrating solar energy can be stored.

Abu Dhabi aims to source 7% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, contributing to the recent spate of renewable energy investments by Middle East countries. Qatar has plans for 1.8 gigawatts of solar by 2014 and Saudi Arabia is targeting 100% renewables by 2032.

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