Solar Power in UAE

In one of the most energy rich regions of the world, Abu Dhabi, new energy is being built out for domestic use. However, this oil rich country has been focusing on developing renewable sources of energy. Their new 100MW solar plant will come online this month and electrify up to 20,000 homes in the region. Called Shams 1 after the Arabic word for sun, the project will be the largest solar plant of its type in the world.1

Built using a technology called Concentrated Solar Power; this plant uses the sun to super heat liquid to turn steam turbines. Parabolic mirrors focus the sun’s light on an oil filled pipe. This super-heated liquid is then passed through water in order to heat and turn into steam. The steam is then passed through a standard turbine with the heated steam being condensed and returned to cycle again. The benefit of this process is the heated oil can be stored in tanks and used when sunlight is not available. This allows for electrical production to be spread out as needed.2

Concentrated Solar Power

The solar plant has its own unique complications. Being built in a desert environment, the mirrors accumulate sand and dirt, reducing the ability to produce energy. In order to prevent this from becoming a major issue, automated trucks were developed that cleaned the mirrors and only need one worker walking in front. The truck detects the worker and follows behind cleaning the mirrors. Also taken into consideration is the conservation of water in the dry desert environment. Shams 1 was developed with this in mind with a dry cooling system to prevent water loss. In addition, a good amount of the water used to clean the mirrors is capture and recycled for later use. 3

Shams 1

Shams 1 is a joint venture between Total, Abengoa Solar, and Masdar. Developed at a cost of approximately $600M, the plant contains 258,000 mirrors on 768 tracking parabolic troughs. The plant sits on a 2.5 square kilometer field. At full capacity it is expected to power approximately 20,000 homes. The oil rich nation says the cost of the plant will be comparable to electricity generation produced from diesel. The advantage is now that United Arab Emirates is now freed up to sell their natural resources on the international market. This development is part of a larger goal of having 7% of energy production from renewable sources by 2020. The 100 megawatt facility will be approximately 0.5% of the estimated 20 gigawatts of domestic demand in 2020. 1






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One response to “Solar Power in UAE

  1. evanhegarty

    While some people may question such a high cost for a 100MW renewable energy power plant in an oil rich nation such as the UAE, I feel it is a step in the right direction. The UAE’s plan of producing 7% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 is not only good planning for a peak-oil future, but it will provide continuous domestic energy at a very low operational cost while freeing up their oil for export when the price of oil continues to climb ever higher [1]. The UAE has also invested in PV solar power and has another 100MW PV plant set to open later this year [3], but CSP has some unique advantages over PV cells. While a PV plant may be cheaper upfront, the PV cells have a short lifespan and will all have to be replaced. CSP has been shown to have a much longer lifespan and has much greater and more efficient capabilities for energy storage and dispatch through thermal reservoirs. Seage, the CEO Abengoa Solar, said “CSP is one of the very few renewable technologies that is dispatchable, where energy can be stored as thermal energy and not the electricity itself – that’s a huge advantage” [3]. Masdar, the majority shareholder of Shams 1, says that this 100MW CSP plant will lower UAE’s carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 193,000 tons per year, equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees [1], a great step towards lower the worlds carbon dioxide emissions. This plant is also focused on reduction of water usage, “Water consumption is one of the main worries with our plants” said Seage [3]. To fulfill these means, Shams 1 has a dry cooling system and recycles the water it uses to clean its mirrors. More CSP plants like these are being planned and built around the world, which is a move in the right direction. While Shams 1 currently can claim to have the largest running CSP plant in the world, it may not be able to claim that for long, as there are currently nine CSP plants of 100MW or higher capacity under construction in India, Morocco, and the US, and there are plans for many more around the world [1].



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