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World’s largest single-unit solar plant nears completion

Abu Dhabi will soon be home to the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant – with a generation capacity of more than 100 WM.

Abu Dhabi-based solar power plant could generate electricity for up to 20,000 homes in the region

Construction of the world’s largest single-unit solar power plant, worth USD 600 million, is set to be completed before the end of the year, according to solar power giant Masdar.

The plant, known as Shams 1, has a generation capacity of over 100 MW of power and is due to be opened in the first quarter of 2013. Electricity generated from the plant should power 20,000 homes in the region.

Once complete the plant will consist of 258,048 parabolic trough mirrors, 192 solar collector assembly loops with eight solar collector assemblies per loop, 768 solar collector assembly units, and 27,648 absorber pipes.

"It uses the CSP technology and parabola shapes means that solar thermal electricity is generated by focusing sunlight, concentrated by mirrors, reflects to heat a coolant which then generates high-pressure steam to drive a steam turbine," said Yousuf Al Ali, general manager of Shams Power Company.

"Once completed, Shams 1 will be one of the largest concentrated solar power [CSP] plants in the world, extending over an area of 2.5 square kilometres with a capacity of approximately 100 MW," said Al Ali.

"Shams 1 is the largest concentrated solar power project in the world. Developing a project of this scale is a significant achievement for Abu Dhabi, Masdar and its partners, Total and Abengoa," he added.

There are larger solar power plants or solar power projects but they include multiple solar plants of less than 100 MW. For example, the Solnova Solar Power Station in Spain has five CSP plants of 50 MW each that make the overall project 250 MW in size, and the Gujarat Solar Park in India includes multiple solar PV projects that total 600 MW.

Construction of the Shams 1 project began in 2010, at a total cost of approximately USD 600m. The project will be followed shortly by Shams 2 & 3, which are planned to generate similar levels of electricity.

Shams 1 is a joint venture that is 60 per cent owned by Masdar, 20 per cent by Total, and 20 per cent by Abengoa. The project was developed under a contract that ensures ownership and continued operation for 25 years.

"As one of Masdar's flagship projects, Shams 1 will directly contribute to Abu Dhabi's target of achieving 7 per cent renewable energy power generation capacity by the year 2020,” said Al Ali.