Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, Masdar, recently inaugurated the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant and took a group of journalists on a tour of Masdar City, a grand urban sustainability experiment.

When it reaches 130 degrees fahrenheit in the summer, the UAE requires lot of air conditioning that is currently supplied mostly with natural gas, much of it imported. The country’s rapidly expanding economy and population has caused natural gas consumption to outstrip production and imports to surpass exports. The UAE is one of the few countries to both import and export LNG.

The EIA estimates roughly 30% of the UAE’s indigenous gas production is used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR), a share that is expected to increase as more steam flooding and other energy-intensive technology is required to coax oil from aging fields. Oil revenue is the economy’s lifeblood so maximizing exports is a high priority – the UAE has been an Opec member since 1967.

As such, UAE leadership is moving ahead with renewable energy projects that include some of the world’s largest solar installations and even nuclear power. From an economic standpoint, it makes sense to generate electricity from renewable sources and reserve petroleum for export. There are also environmental benefits associated with reducing carbon emissions through the use of renewable energy.

The latest component of that strategy was the start up of Shams 1, a 100 MW concentrated solar power plant located in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region. The plant is connected to the Abu Dhabi power grid and there are plans to scale the technology up for use in EOR.

In order to incubate cutting edge renewable energy technology the Emirates are building a world-class research center in the heart of what will be the world’s most sustainable city. The plan is for Masdar City, located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, to be completely powered by renewable energy and for it to be constructed with passive and intelligent building designs that minimize energy use and maximize energy efficiency.

The following slideshow documents Breaking Energy’s travel to these remarkable renewable energy projects.

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