Shams – A journey from heritage to energy

30 Mar 2021
Solar
Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region is a source of great pride for the UAE. It represents the roots of the country’s Bedouin heritage, with its desert sands inspiring many a poem and captivating many an explorer.

In 2013, with the inauguration of the Shams solar power plant, the region proved that it was not just a source of our history, but that it could also power the country into the future. Shams paved the way for other ambitious clean energy projects in the UAE and overseas.

Shams is one of the largest concentrated solar thermal power plants in the world and supplies power to more than 20,000 homes through 258,048 parabolic trough mirrors that are installed at the plant.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) is an efficient and cost-effective method of generating clean energy from the sun. There are many types of CSP technologies: towers, dishes, linear mirrors and troughs are the main ones. 1.  

At Shams the CSP systems are designed using mirrors that concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a receiver, resulting in solar power. The concentrated light becomes a force that powers a heat engine or steam turbine, which in turn generates electricity. Once this wonderful journey is complete, the steam is recycled back into the system.

This prompts the logical question: How can solar power be available on demand when the sun doesn’t shine all the time? Thermal energy storage or the ability to store the sun’s heat in the form of thermal energy for use when the sun isn’t shining is how this is addressed.2 

Shams was the first project of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa – building on the tremendous advantage of an abundance of sunshine and sand – and is a partnership between Masdar, Total and Abu Dhabi Retirement Pension & Benefits Fund.

The project has several other firsts to its credit, including achieving what was then the world’s largest financing transaction for a solar energy project in 2011. This was a turning point in the world’s green business narrative, as Masdar demonstrated the commercial viability of renewables, paving the way for other governments and investors to invest in clean energy technologies.

Renewable electricity costs have fallen sharply over the past decade, driven by improving technologies, economies of scale, increasingly competitive supply chains and growing developer experience.

The success of Shams has paved the way for Masdar to expand its renewable footprint beyond the deserts of the Western Region. In Indonesia, Masdar is developing the 145 MWac Cirata Floating Photovoltaic Power Plant through a joint venture with PT PJBI. The project will be Indonesia’s first floating PV plant and takes forward Masdar’s legacy as a leader in the industry that works For A Sustainable Future.

Discover more about Masdar’s Clean Energy business, investments and impact around the world.
1 https://www.solarpaces.org/how-csp-works/#:~:text=All%20concentrating%20solar%20power%20(CSP,used%20as%20industrial%20process%20heat.
2 USA Energy Department