Environment

World’s largest concentrated solar power plant opens in the UAE

The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant covers and area of 2.5 square km (1 sq mile)
The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant covers and area of 2.5 square km (1 sq mile)
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The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant covers and area of 2.5 square km (1 sq mile)
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The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant covers and area of 2.5 square km (1 sq mile)
The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant is roughly 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi
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The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant is roughly 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi
Shams 1 is a 100 MW concentrated solar power plant that will power 20,000 homes in the UAE
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Shams 1 is a 100 MW concentrated solar power plant that will power 20,000 homes in the UAE
The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant uses a dry-cooling system is used to keep water consumption down
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The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant uses a dry-cooling system is used to keep water consumption down
The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant
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The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant
The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant boasts 250,000 mirrors mounted on 768 parabolic trough collectors
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The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant boasts 250,000 mirrors mounted on 768 parabolic trough collectors

Thanks to its low latitude and low percentage of cloudy days, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ideal location for capturing solar energy. So it’s no surprise to see the world’s largest operating concentrated solar power (CSP) has launched in the sun-soaked Middle Eastern country. Officially inaugurated this week by UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Shams 1 is a 100 MW CSP that will power 20,000 UAE homes.

Construction on Shams (which is Arabic for "Sun") 1 began in the second half of 2010 at a site roughly 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi. The power plant sees an area of 2.5 km2 (1 sq mile) covered with 250,000 mirrors mounted on 768 parabolic trough collectors. The parabolic mirrors focus sunlight onto oil filled pipes that are heat water and produce steam that is then used to drive a turbine. Being located in the middle of the desert, a dry-cooling system is used to keep water consumption down.

Built at a cost of around €460 million (US$595 million), Shams 1 is a joint venture between French petroleum company Total (20 percent), Spanish company Abengoa Solar (20 percent), and Masdar (60 percent). With the addition of Shams 1, Masdar, which was established to develop and manage Masdar City, is claiming to account for almost 10 percent of the world’s installed CSP capacity.

Shams 1 is a 100 MW concentrated solar power plant that will power 20,000 homes in the UAE
Shams 1 is a 100 MW concentrated solar power plant that will power 20,000 homes in the UAE

Masdar claims Shams 1 will cut the UAE’s CO2 emissions by roughly 175,000 tonnes (193,000 tons) per year, which it equates to planting 1.5 million trees, or taking 15,000 cars off the road.

While Shams 1 can lay claim to the largest capacity CSP plant currently in operation, it isn’t likely to hold the title for long. CSP is “gathering steam” in many parts of the world, with no less than nine 100 MW or higher capacity CSP plants already under construction in the U.S., India and Morocco, and many more planned around the world.

The construction of Shams 1 can be seen in the video below.

Source: Masdar

Shams 1 Corporate Video

19 comments
Samer Helmy
Natural gas power plant would have cost them less than 2% of that outrageous amount, and it is clean enough. A proper solar panel or wind turbine farm would have been much more economical still. Three quarters of a billion dollars to produce 100 MW. Joke of the century.
windykites
Is this method of generating electricity cheaper than PV? This looks an incredibly expensive exercise. All that massive equipment required for piping hot fluids around seems really unnecessary. Compare with how PV works. If you gave the 20,000 households €10,000 each to spend on PV panels, you would save half the amount of money. I think someone has being conned on this.
LordInsidious
@Samer Helmy, you forget about 1 key element, you still have to buy natural gas. Also $595 million is not three quarters of a billion, if you are going to round in this case you would round down so it would be half a billion. @windykites1 your numbers on PV may be right but the difference is PVs have a life span and eventually all of them will have to be replaced (though there replacements will likely be better and cheaper) concentrated solar power has lower costs for upkeep as it's essentially pipes, mirrors and turbines.
Bob Flint
Sand and mirrors don't get along very well, even with the high wall around, a few good storms and the surfaces are bound to be damaged, not to mention the dust alone settling on & in everything .
StWils
CSP also offers a second advantage by providing some shading to drip irrigated crops and even grazing animals such as cattle, goats or chickens. In this part of the world the cost of providing the water needed offsets the sizeable cost of importing food. There are already several CSP sites that are trying this out and maybe the costs & benefits would also make this "second crop" attractive here. Either way as long as the sun continues to shine there is energy available and that is simply not the case with any fossil fuel. So long as the initial capital investment is durable and affordable the site will produce energy. Mines, coal seams, and gas fields all produce energy, produce green house gases, ( it is more than just CO2), and all of them eventually play out.
The Creator
I'd think a solar tower like they are building in Arizona would be a better choice: http://www.gizmag.com/enviromission-solar-tower-arizona-clean-energy-renewable/19287/ that thing is even more expensive (750 million) for 200mW, compared to this CSP plant... 595 million for 100mW, but the solar tower is much less complicated and error prone. There are no moving parts at all, except for the [air] turbines. This CSP plant has the steam turbine, along with a large plumbing system and 768 parabolic trough collectors that have to move accurately to track the sun, that's a lot of moving parts and potentially problems and maintenance to do. The solar tower at the cost of .75 billion dollars is projected to pay of its purchase price in 11 years, and operate without any major maintenance for 80 years... which is actually believable considering its mostly "solid state" e.g. a concrete structure. That's 69 years of free energy
jerryd
NG costs about $2k/kw and while this one, Arabs always get screwed, costs too much, in the US 5x's larger, 500Mw one is going in, as others at under $3k/kw with no fuel cost and on demand output with it's heat storage. So it'll clean a NG plant's clock within 2 yrs with almost free power after that. Please show me the NG one that can beat it over their 40 yr life? Hell, all the NG will be gone, at least for burning, in 30 yrs with the most recent data and expected increased useage. They overstated the oil/Ng shale output because the fracking/tight wells only last a yr before their output plunges to 10% in a few yrs. They had been expected to flow heavy for 10-20 yrs the early NG estimate was but that was very wrong. Now it was also based on NG useage a few yrs ago but it will double in 5 yrs, cutting reserves 50% just in that. So before the NG or CSP plants die of old age NG one won't have any fuel but the CSP has that big nuke in the sky ;^P
Slowburn
This plant was built for the man with the cash if he is happy with it it is good. This design is compatible with molten salt heat storage which does not wear out unlike electric batteries. I am however surprised that the waste heat is not used to desalinate water.
Slowburn
re; jerryd The fact that the oil and gas companies are still Fracking calls your claims into question.
Ava Dub
It's good to see this sort of thing happening! Fossil Fuels are not clean and their extraction always damages someone's health and environment, everyone knows that. And Nuclear Power is not safe, the people of Japan and Chernobyl know that. And we are good at making Steam Powered generators so no need for a change of equipment there. I think the cost for Big Solar will go down considerably once manufacture begins on a large scale. I think investors will be getting long term guaranteed riches instead of risky short term gain with possible negative effects on their fellow man. It is about time we started thinking about making money and meeting our needs responsibly like a grown person instead of being childish money nerds who cannot see the forest for the trees.