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.

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“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.”

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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!

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