Abu Dhabi working on sunshine as Middle East's largest solar power plant goes live

Dh2.2 billion Shams 1 solar plant will generate 100 megawatts of clean and sustainable energy - enough to power 20,000 homes.

The new Shams 1 solar plant near Madinat Zayed will provide enough power for 20,000 homes. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // The UAE takes its first big step in diversifying its energy supply today with the opening of the Shams 1 solar power plant.

The Dh2.2 billion plant covering 2.5 sq km in Madinat Zayed in the Western Region is the largest renewable energy project in the Middle East.

It will generate 100 megawatts of clean and sustainable energy - enough to power 20,000 homes, and the biggest step so far towards Abu Dhabi's goal of obtaining 7 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Shams 1 is "a signal that the UAE is in the vanguard of renewable energy in the region and the world", said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, the Abu Dhabi alternative energy company that owns 60 per cent of the Shams Power Company.

The French oil company Total, and Abengoa of Spain, which specialises in power and water, each has a 20 per cent stake in the project.

The plant is also an integral part of Abu Dhabi's 2030 Vision, with its goals of diversifying the region's energy mix and building a knowledge-based economy.

Shams 1 will "extend the life of the UAE's hydrocarbon resources and support our long-term energy and economic security", said Dr Al Jaber.

Bader Al Lamki, director of clean energy at Masdar, said Shams 1 "fits into Masdar's goals, and Masdar fits into Abu Dhabi's broader energy story".

"Hydrocarbons will diminish one day and it is important that we diversify the mix," he said.

"Abu Dhabi has been a leader in this field, and we would like to continue in that role on the global stage."

When fully operational, the plant will displace carbon dioxide equivalent to planting 1.5 million trees, or taking about 15,000 cars off the road.