An enormous solar power plant is taking shape in the desert, and Breaking Energy is there to see it.

The project’s importance to the country and region, as growing economies and populations in the Middle East and North Africa require increasing amounts of energy, is self-evident. The fact that an Opec country has taken this step underscores the need to generate electricity from all available sources, particularly sources other than valuable hydrocarbons.

The inauguration ceremony held Sunday in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region was presided over by the country’s most powerful leaders, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as well as other senior UAE officials.

Abu Dhabi holds virtually all the UAE’s oil and gas reserves, which are located in the Western Region a few hours’ drive from the well-known cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which are situated on the Gulf coast.

Siting the Shams 1 concentrated solar plant in the heart of oil and gas country is both symbolic and strategic. The Western Region is a land of history, representing the roots of the UAE’s Bedouin heritage and the center of the nation’s energy industry. The location is strategic because Shams 1 uses limited volumes of natural gas to boost efficiency and allow the plant to operate during periods of low solar radiation.

At 100 megawatts, it’s the largest CSP in the world with 258,000 mirrors and an enormous custom-made 125 MW steam turbine manufactured by MAN that weighs in at 220 tons. The Plant was developed by Shams Power Company, a joint venture between Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company (60 percent), French oil giant Total (20 percent) and Spanish energy infrastructure company Abengoa Solar (20 percent).

Keep reading Breaking Energy for additional coverage of the Shams 1 project and our tour of Masdar City, a sustainable and 100% renewable energy-powered city being constructed just outside the city of Abu Dhabi.