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Middle East to build first major solar power plant

Contracts have been let for a 100 MW solar power facility that will be built near the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar, will work with Abengoa of Spain and Total of France to build Shams 1, at a cost of US$500 to US$700 million. Total and Abengoa will own 20% each of the project, with Masdar controlling 60%.

The facility will install 768 parabolic mirrors to be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world, extending over 2.5 km2 and generating green power for 62,000 homes. Construction will begin later this year and be completed within two years.

The Shams 1 plant (Shams means ‘sun’ in Arabic) represents one of the first steps towards the introduction of sustainable energy sources in an energy market which until now has depended mostly on hydrocarbons, explains Masdar. Abu Dhabi has a target of 7% of electricity to be generated from renewable energy facilities by 2020.

Two Abengoa companies, Abener and Teyma, will be responsible for construction, and Abengoa Solar and Total will be in charge of operation and maintenance after the facility is commissioned. Power output will be sold to Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity under a long-term electricity sales contract.

Solar parabolic technology to be used

Abengoa Solar will provide its parabolic trough technology that it has installed in large-scale commercial solar thermal power stations in Spain and northern Africa. The CSP technology focuses sunlight that is concentrated by mirrors, to heat a coolant which then generates high-pressure steam to drive a conventional steam turbine.

“We have teamed with the most qualified partners in the region, Total and Masdar, to own and operate what will be the most advanced solar plant, featuring our cutting-edge technology,” says Santiago Seage of Abengoa Solar. This is the company’s first project in the Middle East.

“The launch of the Shams 1 marks a very important milestone for Masdar and for Abu Dhabi,” says Sultan Al-Jaber of Masdar. “This project, which will be the first utility-scale commercial solar power project in the UAE, represents the translation into reality of the vision the Abu Dhabi leadership had for renewable energy in the Emirate.”

“Shams 1 will allow Masdar to transfer to Abu Dhabi the know-how and expertise we have gained from our involvement in developing world-class renewable energy projects abroad, thus not only opening the door for renewable energy projects in the UAE but also for technology transfer, contributing toward the development of a knowledge-based economy and new job opportunities through the specializations required to manage and operate the plant,” he adds.

“By participating in this ambitious project alongside Masdar and Abengoa Solar, Total develops its solar energy assets, enriches its portfolio of expertise with this first step in concentrated solar technology, and reaffirms its unique partnership with Abu Dhabi,” says Philippe Boisseau of Total Gas & Power. “We are pleased to be partnered with Abu Dhabi, a country we have been working with for more than 70 years, in its pursuit of energy diversification and to contribute to the Masdar initiative, which promotes the development of renewable energies.”

Shams 1 is registered under the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and is eligible for carbon credits. It is be the first CSP plant registered under the CDM and the second project registered for Masdar. It will displace 175,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees or removing 15,000 cars from the roads.

Masdar is dedicated to renewable energy future

Masdar is Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted initiative advancing the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable and alternative energy technologies and solutions. Backed by the Mubadala Development Company, an investment vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi, Masdar is dedicated to the emirate’s long-term vision for the future of energy.

Total has been active in solar energy since 1983 through its interests in two companies, Photovoltech and Tenesol. In 2008, it became the largest shareholder in US start-up Konarka, which develops products based on organic solar technologies and recently acquired an interest in AE Polysilicon, developer of a new solar polysilicon production technology.

Abengoa Solar has 493 MW in operation and construction using trough, tower and photovoltaic technologies, and is developing several thousand more in several regions around the world. It is developing Europe’s largest solar complex in Spain (Solúcar Platform) and develops its own technology in both parabolic trough and solar power tower.

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity