Using a combination of 258,048 parabolic mirrors and the one powerful Arabian desert sun, Shams 1, the new 100-megawatt concentrated solar power plant just southwest of Abu Dhabi, is now cranking out power.
More Shams 1 by the numbers: It’s the biggest plant of its kind in the world, it cost an estimated $750 million to build, it should power 20,000 homes, and it’s expected to save 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
The project is a joint venture of state-owned renewable energy company Masdar, French energy company Total, and Spanish company Abengoa Solar.
“From precious hydrocarbon exports to sophisticated renewable energy systems, we are balancing the energy mix and diversifying our economy — moving toward a more sustainable future,” Sultan and Masdar CEO Ahmed Al Jaber said in a statement.
CleanTechnica got a look inside the plant back in January, and reports that Shams 1 is not like most concentrated power plants. Yes, the sun hits the mirrors, which concentrate the energy and use it to boil water, creating steam that drives turbines. But Sham 1 adds a middle step: “the use of natural gas to ‘superheat’ the water,” CleanTechnica reports. “Project managers informed us that this accounts for about 20% of the heat.”
So what does the world’s biggest concentrated solar plant mean for those of us who do not live in the United Arab Emirates? According to Bloomberg: “Adding clean-power generators may help oil-rich nations in the region to conserve more of their crude and gas for export, reducing their use of the fuels to generate power that’s sold at subsidized prices.”
Abu Dhabi’s betting on our appetite for its fossil fuels. It’s not that it’s a bad bet, but it does feel like a little sand in the eyes of U.S. renewables. C’moooon, BrightSource!