The way forward: Spread across a 2.5-square kilometre site in the desert of Madinat Zayed, Shams 1 is expected to meet the energy needs of 20,000 homes.
Masdar sets sights on building the Middle East's largest solar farm
Abu Dhabi has been pushing ahead with clean-power initiatives – and its efforts are starting to bear fruit.
Masdar, the Abu Dhabi clean-energy company, is working on what will soon be the Middle East’s largest solar farm.
Shams 1, a 2.5 square-kilometre site in the desert of Madinat Zayed, is expected to feed 100 megawatts (MW) of clean power into the electricity grid, enough to satisfy the energy needs of 20,000 homes.
The largest solar installation in the country at the moment is a 10MW plant at Masdar City.
“We are busy now through the commissioning phase, and all efforts are lined up to commission this plant in the first or the second quarter of 2013,” said Bader Al Lamki, director of Masdar Clean Energy.
The plant will produce energy by using mirrors to concentrate solar power to heat up water that will produce electricity.
Masdar is also working on another 100MW plant, Noor 1, which will use solar photovoltaic cells to produce electricity.
“We are now again in the last phase of presenting the project to the decision makers, hopefully 2013 will bring light to this,” Mr Al Lamki said.
In October, Masdar crossed an important international threshold when the London Array wind farm started feeding the British power grid.
The Abu Dhabi company partnered with the Danish power provider Dong Energy and Germany’s E.ON on the project.
The British wind farm will be completed early this year, becoming the largest project of this scale in the world, generating 630MW – enough to power 470,000 homes.
Masdar’s chief executive, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, said the company would continue seeking international opportunities next year.
“Masdar will continue to focus its attention on markets where there are attractive incentives or policy mechanisms that promote renewable-energy investments,” he said.
“With tremendous growth expected in the Middle East and North Africa, we are in a favourable position as first movers to be the go-to resource to deploy renewable-energy projects.”
Besides creating clean-energy infrastructure, another important issue is to come up with policies to reduce the high rate of electricity consumption in the emirate. In June, the Regulation and Supervision Bureau of Abu Dhabi started work on a trial to assess whether pricing energy differently would affect use.
Yesterday, it announced it had installed 400 smart meters in the homes of volunteers whose energy consumption will be monitored next year. Emiratis pay a flat rate of 5 fils per kilowatt hour (kWh) and non-nationals 15 fils per kWh.
Trialists will pay higher rates between 2pm and 8pm, when demand is highest, and less the rest of the time. Emiratis will pay 10 fils per kWh during peak hours and 3 fils per kWh at off-peak times. Non-nationals will pay three times that.
In Abu Dhabi, demand reaches 9,000MW in summer, but is a third less the rest of the year. Although the peak only lasts a few months, the emirate has to invest in expensive infrastructure to accommodate it.
“It is at the top of Abu Dhabi’s agenda to conserve energy and precious resources,” said Nick Carter, the bureau’s director general.