The Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant was inaugurated earlier this week in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, UAE. At 100 megawatts, Shams 1 is currently the largest operational CSP plant in the world. The project is noteworthy because it is a major step forward for renewable energy technology, and CSP in particular, but also because it was developed in an Opec country. Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, partnered with French oil major Total and Spain’s energy infrastructure company Abengoa. Breaking Energy attended the proceedings, along with several other international journalists, as Masdar’s guest. Masdar is a subsidiary of Mubadala, a UAE government-owned investment vehicle.

“With the addition of Shams 1, Masdar’s renewable energy portfolio accounts for almost 68 percent of the Gulf’s renewable energy capacity and nearly 10 percent of the world’s installed CSP capacity”, according to the company.

“Incorporating the latest in parabolic trough technology, Shams 1 features more than 258,000 mirrors mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. By concentrating heat from direct sunlight onto oil-filled pipes, Shams 1 produces steam, which drives a turbine and generates electricity,” according to Masdar statement.

• Parabolic shaped mirrors concentrate solar radiation on a central tube where special oil is heated to 393° C

• 27,648 specially-engineered absorber tubes minimize heat loss

• 130 Km of closed loop pipes transport hot and cold oil to and from the heat exchangers – 15 Km of closed loop pipes circulate the water/steam

• Heat exchangers transfer heat from the oil to the water and generate high pressure steam at 380° C to drive the steam turbine

• Heat Transfer Fluid heaters provide the required thermal energy at night or during cloud cover (used only for emergency and shortage in the grid)

• Purpose-built booster heaters further superheat the steam to 540° C and enhance steam cycle and turbine efficiency – limited volumes of natural gas are used in this stage – Masdar receives gas as per an agreement with Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Limited (GASCO) – a joint venture between ADNOC, Shell, Total, and Partex

• 125 MW steam turbine supplies constant power output above 100 MW – custom built by MAN Diesel & Turbo

• Onsite transformer steps up electricity voltage to that of the national grid so it can be distributed to customers

• Displaces approximately 175,000 tons of CO₂ per year

• $600 million project took three years to build

• Covers an area of 2.5 km², or 285 football fields

• Generates electricity to power 20,000 homes in the UAE

• Reduces need for “peak shaving” generators because solar power generated during peak demand periods

• Uses dry-cooling system that significantly reduces water consumption