Masdar inaugurates world’s largest operational CSP plant

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The 100MW Shams 1 project — which has been dubbed the world’s largest operational CSP plant — has been officially inaugurated at a ceremony held on 17 March.

The ceremony was attended by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ruler of Abu Dhabi in addition to a number of other leaders in the UAE.

Located near Madinat Zayed in the western region of Abu Dhabi, the 100MW grid-connected project covers more than 2.5 square kilometres of land — equivalent to 285 football fields — and has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power 20,000 homes.

The facility was developed by joint venture firm Shams Power Company, of which Masdar is the majority shareholder with a 60% stake. The remaining 40% is held by Total and Abengoa Solar which each have a 20% stake.

Shams 1 incorporates parabolic trough technology and is equipped with more than 258,000 mirrors mounted on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. By concentrating heat from direct sunlight onto oil-filled pipes, steam is produced, which drives a turbine and generates electricity. The project uses a booster heater to heat steam as it enters the turbine, boosting the cycle’s efficiency. Shams 1 also features a dry-cooling system that significantly reduces water consumption – a critical advantage in the arid desert as highlighted by Masdar.

The project marks a key development in the UAE’s goal to further diversify its energy mix. At the inauguration ceremony, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “Expanding our leadership into renewable sources of power demonstrates the United Arab Emirates’ commitment to maintaining its position as a major provider of energy. The inauguration of Shams 1 is a major milestone in our country’s economic diversification and a step toward long-term energy security.

“Shams 1 is a strategic investment in our country’s economic, social and environmental prosperity. The domestic production of renewable energy extends the life of our country’s valuable hydrocarbon resources and supports the growth of a promising new industry.” 

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar added: “The inauguration of Shams 1 is a breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East. With the demand for energy rising exponentially, the region is undergoing a major transformation in how it generates electricity. In fact, the Middle East is poised for major investments in renewables, and Shams 1 proves the economic and environmental advantage of deploying large-scale solar projects.”

Including the Shams 1 project, Masdar’s renewable energy portfolio now accounts for almost 68% of the Gulf’s renewable energy capacity and almost 10% of the world’s installed CSP capacity.

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