It seems that the Middle East wants to live up to their reputation as the energy capital of the world. Abu Dhabi is the new solar power house in the school yard. They just built the largest solar plant in history and dubbed it Shams 1. The project is massive, influential, and they’re harnessing the power of the sun in a non-traditional way.
How Does the Plant Work?
Shams 1 has over 258,000 mirrors on 768 tracking parabolic trough collectors. The mirrors concentrate the heat of the sun onto oil-filled pipes, producing steam. That steam drives a turbine that generates electricity. The project instilled a booster that would heat the steam, dramatically increasing the speed of the turbine to produce more energy. It’s like a tricked out, modern version of the old water wheels you used to see on cottages.
The system is complete with a dry-cooling system to lessen the need to use water in a desert.
What’s It’s Reach?
Shams 1 delivers power to 20,000 homes in the United Arab Emirates
What’s the Future Look Like?
Solar energy cannot be transported, stored, or otherwise exported for mass consumption use . . . yet.
So for now, Shams 1 will provide clean, renewable energy to 20,000 homes in the UAE while it inspires other, similar projects to take root around the world. To meet the needs of a nation 7.891 million strong, the UAE is looking to start many more, similar projects to meet the country’s energy needs.
A Few Brief Facts about the Project
The project cost $600 million and took three years to build.
The plant sits on 2.5 square kilometers of land.
The officials hope that the project will save the environment from 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
The plant is located just 75 southwest of Abu Dhabi.
There is one plant, similar in design, out in the Mojave Desert of California. It doesn’t nearly have the same output or influence as Shams 1 though.
Is this the beginning of a worldwide movement?
Possibly, but the technology will need to be adapted for the rest of the world. Not everyone has access to the oil reservoirs of the UAE, and seeing how the plant produces steam from the oil pipes, the system will have to be reworked to fit the environment of wherever it is placed. It’s a step forward though, and the progress is well applauded.