Total and Abengoa sign up to Abu Dhabi solar plant

The plant, to be named Shams 1, will have a 100 megawatt capacity and would qualify for carbon credits under the United Nation's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). It will be constructed in the desert, 75 miles from Abu Dhabi.

The plant, which will cover an area of 2.5 square kilometres, is designed to offset the equivalent of 175,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. It will contain 768 parabolic trough collectors, to be supplied by Abengoa, with an initial operating lifespan of 25 years.

Work will begin on the plant in the third quarter of this year, and is expected to take two years to complete.

Abengoa and Total will each hold a 20 per cent stake in the project, with Masdar holding the remaining 60 per cent.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, CEO of Masdar, said: “The launch of the Shams 1 marks a very important milestone for Masdar and for Abu Dhabi. I am very proud of the announcement we are making today because this project, which will be the first utility scale, commercial solar power project in the UAE, represents the translation into reality of the vision the Abu Dhabi leadership had for renewable energy in the Emirate.”

He continued: “I am delighted we are embarking on this journey together with our strategic partners Total and Abengoa Solar, both of whom have tremendous experience and technical know-how in developing projects such as Shams 1. It is through such partnerships that Masdar will succeed in developing and advancing renewable energy solutions and establish Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a world leader in renewable energy and clean technology.”

Philippe Boisseau, president of Total Gas & Power, added: “By participating in this ambitious project alongside Masdar and Abengoa Solar, Total develops its solar energy assets, enriches its portfolio of expertise with this first step in concentrated solar technology, and reaffirms its unique partnership with Abu Dhabi.

Santiago Seage, CEO of Abengoa Solar, said: “We have teamed with the most qualified partners in the region, Total and Masdar, to own and operate what will be the most advanced solar plant, featuring our cutting-edge technology.” 

Masdar is aiming to establish a carbon capture and storage network in the UAE. This is the second UN CDM project registered by the company—the first being a smaller 10 megawatt solar plant in Abu Dhabi. That plant was to feed the construction of Masdar City, a carbon-neutral town being built in the desert at an estimated cost of $22 billion.

Abengoa has already constructed four CSP plants in Spain, and is building others in Spain, north Africa and the US.

Abu Dhabi has said it wants to meet seven per cent of its total energy needs through renewable sources by 2020. Power demand in Abu Dhabi is expected to reach 20,000 megawatts in 2020 from around 8,000 megawatts now, as the emirate's economy grows and diversifies.