(3BL Media/Justmeans) - One of the first questions I asked upon arriving in Abu Dhabi, a very modern city in a very oil-rich country, with a very progressive stance towards renewables, was, why? Besides the obvious fact that unlike some other people, they recognize the fact that their oil won't last forever, and they want to participate in energy after it runs out. But there's something else, too. They would like to see an orderly transition that allows them to steward their resource to make as much out of it as they can.
A great example of that is the Shams-1 hybrid solar power plant, which is located 120 km southwest of Abu Dhabi.
Shams is a joint venture between Masdar of the UAE, which contributed 60%, Total, of France, (20%), and Abengoa Solar of Spain (20%).
This unique plant uses a combination of concentrating solar power (CSP) and natural gas which adds a bit to the cost, but gives it some unique capabilities, including the ability to produce power anytime at all, even at night.
During ordinary operation, the parabolic mirrors, of which there are over 258,000, that cover an area of roughly 2.5 square kilometers, track the sun and focus its rays on a pipe containing an oil-based heat transfer fluid (HTF), which heats it to around 400 degrees Celsius. The heated fluid is then used to boil water, the result of which is used to drive a fairly conventional steam turbine.Natural gas can produce up to 50% of the plant's rated capacity, though under full sun, it contributes only 18% of the energy input. This is done by superheating the HTF to 530 Celsius, a point at which the turbine runs more efficiently. This combination produces 100 MW, enough to supply 20,000 homes here. The power is being supplied to the Abu Dhabi Electric Company through a 25 year power purchase agreement.