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Page added on July 24, 2013

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Flush With Oil, Abu Dhabi Opens World’s Largest Solar Plant

Alternative Energy
Rows of parabolic mirrors at the Shams 1 plant in Abu Dhabi.

Rows of parabolic mirrors at the Shams 1 plant in Abu Dhabi.

Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images

Abu Dhabi, the most oil-rich of the United Arab Emirates, is now home to the world’s single-largest concentrated solar power plant.

The 100-megawatt Shams 1 plant cost an estimated $750 million and is expected to provide electricity to 20,000 homes, .

Why, you might ask?

the less oil Abu Dhabi uses for local consumption, the more it can export.

Sultan Ahmed al Jaber, head of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., speaking at a news conference for the plant’s opening over the weekend, said it is part of a “strategic plan to diversify energy sources in Abu Dhabi.”

“Together, with clean energy and nuclear energy, it will make up 7 percent of Abu Dhabi’s energy sources from renewable energy sources,” he said.

Shams 1 uses 768 adjustable parabolic “trough mirrors” to focus sunlight onto a water boiler that produces steam, activates turbines and finally generates electricity, . The middle step in the process, it says, is to use natural gas to superheat the water.

The plant, located about 75 miles southwest of Abu Dhabi, is similar in design to located in California’s Mojave Desert. Although Shams 1 claims to be the single-largest plant, the nine SEGS plants taken together generate more than three times as much energy and serve more than 10 times as many households at peak output.

Officials in Abu Dhabi hope Shams 1 will save 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 15,000 cars off the road. The plant is the first of several more on the drawing board.

The UAE’s neighbor, Saudi Arabia, is on a similar tack with the most extensive renewable-energy program in the Middle East, Bloomberg reports:

“The country is seeking about $100 billion in investments to generate about 41,000 megawatts, or a third of its power, from solar by 2032. That compares with about 3 megawatts now, which puts it behind , , Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates in capacity, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.”



15 Comments on "Flush With Oil, Abu Dhabi Opens World’s Largest Solar Plant"

  1. Arthur on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 11:30 am 

    Very smart, Abu Dhabi is in for a smooth transition.

    The plant looks spectacular in the desert:

    No fata morgana this time.

  2. Kenz300 on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 12:49 pm 

    Solar Power Revolution – Here Comes The Sun — Documentary – YouTube

  3. TIKIMAN on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 1:25 pm 

    Renewable has nothing to do with why they did this. It is far cheaper to build a coal plant in the US than to make a solar plant. Obviously it would cost a great deal of money for Abu Dhabi to import coal for a plant. They also make much more money selling oil than using it for power generation.

    The US isn’t building ‘reneable’ energy sources becuase it is still far too expenseve. The free market is guiding what happens in energy, if companies can build renewables and make money, they would. Wind farms are heavily subsidized, just like ethanol. Coal is cheap and plentiful, and is much more reliable than solar or wind.

  4. Kenz300 on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 2:09 pm 

    Renewables Provide 25% of New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity in First Half 2013

  5. TIKIMAN on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 2:14 pm 

    Kenz300 – Actual generation and generating capacity are 2 different things.

  6. Matt Charles on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 2:21 pm 

    Kudos to the government and innovators on the solar plant project. It is truly remarkable in its design and function of providing so many homes with electricity. The renewable energy future is starting to shape up much better in the middle east.

  7. Kenz300 on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 2:22 pm 

    Renewables to Surpass Gas by 2016 in the Global Power Mix

  8. BillT on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 3:06 pm 

    All of you techies who dream of a ‘George Jetson’ world need to come down off of your high and get real. ^_^

    At $40,000 per home, such a cost for the US would be $4,000,000,000,000.+ dollars and will never happen.

  9. Arthur on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 3:09 pm 

    “The free market is guiding what happens in energy, if companies can build renewables and make money, they would.”

    True, but the free market has no foresight or inherent intelligence. If coal is cheaper now then solar, coal it is going to be now. But if a commodity is on it’s way out sooner or later, it make sense to prepare for that future in order to have a smooth as possible transition (we are already too late for a real smooth transition).

    #kWh/capita electricity consumption (2008):

    Canada: 52
    USA: 39
    Australia: 34
    Japan: 23
    France: 23
    Germany: 21
    Spain: 20
    Russia: 20
    UK: 18
    China: 7
    India: 2

    1 kWh is 1 man day of hard physical labour

    Electricity prices are twice as high in Europe as in America. This is a blessing in disguise since it ensures that Europe will arrive at the fossil-renewable break-even point earlier than North-America, giving it a headstart in the exploitation of an energy type that is inevitable anyway in the longrun. Additionally, for Europeans it will be easier to adapt to new energy conditions since the overall energy use is ca. 40% lower.

  10. Arthur on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 3:14 pm 

    “At $40,000 per home, such a cost for the US would be $4,000,000,000,000.+ dollars and will never happen.”

    Hmm, for 6500 euro you will have a 5000 Watt system, saving more than 1000 euro per year:

    In the Netherlands they soon will introduce offers, carried out by the grid company, that will install a solar system, financed by the monthy payments to the utility company, without much a difference in monthy payment. Obviously it is cheaper to do it yourself. Typical rules of thumb: 7 years paying off the installation and then 20+ years free electricity.

  11. Arthur on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 3:31 pm 

    Here is an offer by a grid company, E-ON:

    For a larger system, return in investment is ten years. All you need to do is pick up the phone.

    Again, you can have a paybacktime of seven years if you organise it yourself.

    The reason why it already works in Europe and certainly in Holland, is because electricity prices are 25 euro cent = 33 dollar cent per kWh.

    In Holland solar panels are a no brainer and I can observe rapid introduction of panels everywhere in my neighbourhood now. It is a trickle first, but if 10% of the households will have them, the rest of the sheeple does not want to stay behind and quickly will follow the early adopters. Just like with the introduction with TV around 1955 and the car around 1960, home computers 1985 and the internet 1995. 10 years later everybody has it.

    Holland 2023:
    Wind: 10.5 GW (= EU target 14% renewable)
    Solar: 7 million households * 5 kW = 35 GW. Ok, not everybody has a suitable roof… high rise buildings, but sau 12 GW should be doable. That means in 2023, Holland will already have 30% renewable and basically that is enough to prevent collapse. In the next 10 years that figure could double again –> 60% in 2033. With that amount Holland will have achieved a smooth transition after all. And in 2030 we will still have fossil enough to fill the gap for the full 100%.

    No problem.

  12. efsome on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 9:38 pm 

    One thing i figured out recently is you can’t (or don’t want to) solve a complex problem with an even more complex solution. Simplifying things works just fine. ex. don’t use electricity, humans lived just fine without it for thousands of years. its just not fair to leave a toxic water/soil to our next gens/earthlings.

  13. Arthur on Wed, 24th Jul 2013 10:29 pm 

    “Simplifying things works just fine. ex. don’t use electricity, humans lived just fine without it for thousands of years.”

    Yes, the memories are fond, indeed:

  14. BillT on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 1:10 am 

    And when this tech breaks down, and it will, there will be no replacements. 20 years, no solar. Simple home systems are best, as Arthur said, but they too will be gone when they wear out/breakdown. There is no techie future past 2050.

  15. Arthur on Thu, 25th Jul 2013 8:37 am 

    To bring things into perspective… 100 MW = 100,000 kW. Assume 8 hours operation per day and you see that this plant at the size of several football fields yields almost 1 million kwh per day. That is the work equivalent of an army of 1 million men doing work 8/7/365 the average Arab refuses to

    Such is the power of relatively simple sun tracking mirrors + 200 year old steam engine technology.

    Are you sure you want to give up on all technology?

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