When the Middle East and energy are the subject matter of discussion it is usually oil, but the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has forever changed this generality by building the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP (News - Alert)) plant. If there is one resource the region has more than oil, it is sunlight, and the Shams 1 solar plant outside of Abu Dhabi will produce 100 MW of electricity at full capacity with 258,000 mirrors.
More than any other oil producing country in the world, the UAE has been keenly aware about the finality of the oil reserves it has. It has been making investments in technology, manufacturing, research and development across all fields, tourism and investments around the world to make up for the revenue that will be lost when the wells dry up.
The Shams 1 plan covers an area of 2.5 km² and uses the most advanced parabolic trough technology. The 258,000 mirrors are mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. These collectors concentrate heat from the sunlight to raise the temperature of oil filled pipes. The heat then produces steam, which drives turbines that generate electricity. Because of the arid desert climate, the plant uses a dry cooling system designed to reduce water consumption. All of the features in this plant are designed to take advantage of the available resources in the region to lower its carbon footprint.
The amount of energy generated from the plant will be able to power 20,000 homes as well as reduce CO2 emissions by 175,000 tons each year. The project was completed in three years with an estimated price tag (News - Alert) of $600 million. The plant was designed and developed by Shams Power Company with a joint venture between Masdar at 60 percent, Total 20 percent and Abengoa Solar 20 percent. This project gives Masdar around 68 percent of the Gulf’s renewable energy capacity and almost 10 percent of the worlds installed CSP capacity.
The Noor-1, another plant with the same capacity as Shams 1 is slated for development later this year in the UAE. Qatar, another state in the UAE has a target goal of generating 1.8 GW by 2014, and Saudi Arabia has stated an ambitious goal of generating 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2032.
Concentrated solar power and photovoltaic (PV) technology are different in how they convert solar power into energy. Most people are familiar with photovoltaic solar panels because they are used on rooftops in homes around the world. These panels generate electricity directly from the sun’s light and the energy is used or stored in batteries. However, CSP concentrates sunlight with specially designed mirrors to generate heat, which is then used to convert water into superheated steam to run the turbines of the generator.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey