x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Shams 1 will provide a long-term boost for Emirati expertise

When the Shams 1 plant comes online, 30 per cent of its workforce will be Emirati.

Abdulaziz Al Obaidli at Shams 1 last month. Mr Al Obaidli is working on a doctoral thesis to try to iron out issues of solar power reliability. The National
Abdulaziz Al Obaidli at Shams 1 last month. Mr Al Obaidli is working on a doctoral thesis to try to iron out issues of solar power reliability. The National

When the Shams 1 plant comes online, 30 per cent of its workforce will be Emirati.

And that is just a start. Within two years, the company behind the landmark project aims to increase the figure to 40 per cent.

"We give a strong emphasis in building human capital, investing in UAE nationals and bringing back the expertise they gain from projects around the globe," said Bader Al Lamki, director of clean energy at Masdar, the majority shareholder in the project.

"It makes us more credible and equipped to take part in projects elsewhere."

Local contractors and subcontractors carried out much of the fabrication and construction work - somewhere between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of the total project value.

Mr Al Lamki expects the plant to be a long-term boost for Emirati expertise.

"They can build relevant skill sets and a track record that can give them a competitive edge in projects to come. They will be in a good position to bid for other projects, and that will be a good source of income to them and the larger economy of the UAE.

"Emirati exposure is not limited to managerial positions, but also to technical and construction roles. We are very proud of that."

Since joining Masdar five years ago, Mr Al Lamki, who is himself Emirati, said local involvement has been a key aim.

"I feel I was lucky to be able to join this journey with renewables. I have spent 11 years in oil and gas, so I have been with the energy story of Abu Dhabi for some time.

"When I saw the bold announcement about Masdar, I was intrigued and excited by it.

"I thought it was definitely a long-term vision taken by this initiative. Today, six years since the creation of Masdar, I am seeing the worldwide recognition of Abu Dhabi."

The plant has already been the motivating factor for an increase in the number of UAE nationals taking courses in engineering and renewables at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

"This is already happening," said Yousif Al Ali, general manager of the Shams Power Company.

"Many UAE nationals are graduating with an education in renewable energy, so for them the best place to work is a place like Shams 1.

"There will be many more students in a range of research areas. The challenge for the Shams 1 team is how to transfer this knowledge to the public and to students in the region."

The institute opened in 2009 and currently runs eight masters courses in a variety of technically-based subjects. Among its aims are to advance renewable energy and sustainable technology by educating, conducting research and development, and investing in international green energy projects.

Abdulaziz Al Obaidli, process engineer with the Shams Power Company, is working on a doctoral project at the institute to try to iron out a significant challenge at Shams 1 - the inherent unreliability of the sun. "If you are burning gas you know your input exactly - it's constant," he said.

On the other hand, "you don't know your sun, so you need predicting models so you can take action now for five minutes later".

"If you focus second by second, it is not stable, because of the clouds, dust and other environmental factors. This translates to unstable production. "In our case we have the gas booster so that can shave the curve and make the production more stable, but this is still a huge challenge."

Mr Al Obaidli added: "All the eyes of the world are looking at this plant to learn lessons. The challenges we face here have not been dealt with anywhere else."