The largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the Middle East is to be built in Madinat Zayed, approximately 120 km (75 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). When it becomes operational in 2012, the plant, dubbed Shams 1, will feature some 6,300,000 square-feet of solar parabolic collectors, cover 741 acres of desert and will produce enough electricity to power 62,000 households.

With a capacity of approximately 100MW and a solar field consisting of 768 parabolic trough collectors, Sham 1 represents one of the first steps in the region towards the introduction of sustainable energy sources in an energy market which until now has depended mostly on hydrocarbons. It is expected to displace approximately 175,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees or removing 15,000 cars from Abu Dhabi’s roads.

The plant will generate solar thermal electricity through focused sunlight, concentrated by the plant’s parabolic trough collectors, heating a coolant which then generates high-pressure steam that drives a conventional steam turbine. The same technology is being implemented in large-scale commercial solar thermal power stations in Spain and northern Africa.

Shams (which is Arabic for sun) 1 will be built, owned and operated by a consortium including Masdar, an Abu Dhabi renewable energy company, Abengoa Solar, a technology company that will supply the parabolic trough collectors, and Total, one of the world’s major oil and gas groups. Masdar will own a 60 percent share of the plant, while an Abengoa Solar and Total joint venture will own the other 40 per cent.

The plant will directly contribute towards Abu Dhabi’s target of achieving seven percent renewable energy power generation capacity by 2020 and has been approved for a solar incentive premium in the form of a long term Green Power Agreement by the Abu Dhabi Government which will see electricity generated by the plant sold to the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Company (ADWEC) under a long-term electricity sales contract.

Construction of Shams 1 will commence in mid 2010, and it is due to go on line in 2012.