(MENAFN - Arab News) Shams 1, described as the largest concentrated solar power plant (CSP) in operation in the world, was officially inaugurated yesterday by the UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
Located in the western region of Abu Dhabi, the 100-megawatt (MW) grid connected power plant, a project of Shams Power Company, will generate clean energy to power 20,000 homes in the UAE when it is fully operational. Sheikh Khalifa expressed his pride, calling it a major achievement in the UAE's goal of energy and economic diversification.
Holding nearly half of the world's renewable energy potential, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is poised for unprecedented growth in renewable energy and the opening of Shams 1 will make major changes in UAE's energy and economy sectors.
The project, a concentrated solar power plant, is using solar thermal collectors to concentrate the heat from sunlight, producing steam that powers a turbine and thus generating electricity. Covering an area of 2.5 km, or 285 football fields, Shams 1 incorporates the latest in parabolic trough technology and features more than 258,000 mirrors mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. Shams 1 also features a dry-cooling system that significantly reduces water consumption - a critical advantage in the arid desert.
"Expanding our leadership into renewable sources of power demonstrates the UAE's commitment to maintaining its position as a major provider of energy," Sheikh Khalifa said. "Shams 1 is a strategic investment in our country's economic, social and environmental prosperity," he added.
"The inauguration of Shams 1 is a breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East," said Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, CEO of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi-based alternative energy company that owns 60 percent of the Shams Power Company, which designed and developed Shams 1 project.
Shams Power Company is a joint venture between Masdar, French oil company Total (20 percent) and Spanish-based Abengoa Solar (20 percent).With the addition of Shams 1, Masdar's renewable energy portfolio accounts for almost 68 percent of the Gulf's renewable energy capacity and close to 10 percent of the world's installed CSP capacity.
"With the demand for energy rising exponentially, the region is undergoing a major transformation in how it generates electricity. In fact, the Middle East is poised for major investments in renewable, and Shams 1 proves the economic and environmental advantage of deploying large-scale solar projects. Abu Dhabi is investing and incubating a new energy industry," added Al-Jaber, who is also UAE's minister for state affairs. "Through Masdar, we are redefining the role our country will play in delivering energy to the world. From precious hydrocarbons exports to commercially viable renewable energy projects, we are extending our legacy for future generations," he added.
"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. "The region needs more projects like Shams 1, and we look forward to pushing the boundaries of future energy," said Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar.
The innovative CSP project reduces the UAE's carbon emissions, displacing approximately 175,000 tons of CO‚‚ per year, an equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees, or taking 15,000 cars off the road.
Since the MENA region holds nearly half of the world's renewable energy potential, almost every country in the GCC has set renewable energy targets. Saudi Arabia has huge plans to install 54GW of solar and wind and that corresponds to about a 40 percent target by 2035. Kingdom will invest 109 billion to support its target. The UAE has targets of seven percent by 2020 and five per cent by 2030 target for Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively. Kuwait has also plans to set up renewable energy firms.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai; General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and other senior members of the UAE leadership also attended the inauguration.