Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, president of the United Arab Emirates,
Sunday launched the Dh2.2 billion Shams 1 solar power plant – the
largest working plant in the world using concentrated solar power
in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Khalifa expressed his support for the project, calling it
“a strategic investment” for the UAE.
“Expanding our leadership into
renewable sources of power demonstrates the commitment of the
United Arab Emirates to maintaining its position as a major
provider of energy,” he said.
“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a
major milestone in our country’s economic diversification and a
step toward long-term energy security", he added.
With a capacity of 100 megawatts –
enough to power 20,000 homes – Shams 1 covers 2.5 square
kilometres in Madinat Zayed in the Western Region.
With the push of a button, to rounds
of applause, Sheikh Khalifa officially started the plant before
stepping out on to an outdoor terrace overlooking the solar field.
To harness the power of the sun,
Shams 1 relies on a solar field large enough to fit 285 football
fields. Giant curved mirrors concentrate solar light on to a small
glass tube, collecting heat.
This is then used to power an
electric turbine and produce power. The plant relies on a small
amount of natural gas to boost its efficiency during the day.
This also allows it to generate
electricity at night. If the plant’s power was produced using
fossil fuels, it would involve pumping 175,000 tonnes of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
Producing the same amount of power
using sunlight is the equivalent of planting 1.5 million trees or
taking 15,000 cars off the road every year.
With the completion of Shams 1, the UAE now has about 68 per cent
of the total solar power capacity in the Arabian Gulf and nearly
10 per cent of the world’s installed capacity of concentrated
solar power, said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of
clean-energy company Masdar and Minister of State.
Masdar developed Shams 1 with the
help of a French oil company, Total, and Abengoa of Spain, which
specialises in the engineering and construction of projects in the
power and water sectors.
Each of the two partners owns a 20
per cent stake in the Shams Power Company, which developed the
plant. The remainder belongs to Masdar.
“The inauguration of Shams 1 is a
breakthrough for renewable energy development in the Middle East
and contributes to maintaining the position of the United Arab
Emirates as a constructive force for stability and development,”
said Dr Al Jaber.
Philippe Boisseau, president of marketing and services and new
energies at Total, said the French oil company’s decision to
invest in the project stemmed from a partnership with Abu Dhabi
that was now more than 70 years old.
Like the emirate, the French oil
company believes the current energy mix needs to be diversified,
“We absolutely share the same vision
that Abu Dhabi has of the need to diversify the energy mix,” he
“Our vision is really that all
energies are necessary to supply the world with energy, that only
one is not enough, that you need a combination of all. The
energies are not competing against one another, they are really
complementary to one another.”
Santiago Seage, chief executive of Abengoa Solar, said Shams 1
would likely inspire other countries in the region to follow suit.
“Shams is, and will be, a key
achievement in the region, not only in the UAE. It starts an era
of renewable energy in many countries around us,” he said.
“Many leaders in the region are
convinced now that they need to follow the path Masdar initiated
with our small collaboration and we hope that we will see many
other renewable energy power plants", he said.