Feeds

back to article World's largest solar collection plant opened in Abu Dhabi

Shams 1, the 100MW solar collector plant that's a cooperative venture between energy investor Masdar, French oil firm Total, Abengoa Solar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has officially opened for business. The 2.5 square kilometer Shams facility (named after the Arabic word for Sun) is technically the world's largest for …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Bronze badge
Facepalm

Follow the money

Let's run the numbers. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shams_solar_power_station) the plant will supply power to 20,000 homes. Total cost to build it is US$600 million.

600M/20K = 30K USD per home, just to cover the startup costs. Seems pretty pricey, particularly considering the very cheap land and blazing sunlight available. Over the 25 year life of the plant, I would suppose the running costs would possibly equal the build costs (guessing here), so they need to recoup at least 2400 USD per year per home, under ideal conditions (yeah right). Clearly this won't happen without subsidies.

And apparently a big chunk of the required tax subsidies are coming out of the pockets of Europeans?! Sounds like a sweet deal for those 20,000 homeowners...

10
9
Silver badge

Re: Follow the money

It's a pilot plant - it's not supposed to be profitable.

It's use it to avoid having to run gas turbine peak plants during the hot weather when everyone turns on their AC.

Now, imagine other places with lots of hot weather, desert and masses of AC - like Texas, California, Australia.

When they run out of places with oil to invade - who are they going to buy solar power stations from?

Who has made the investment in developing these plants - hint it isn't Britain

10
8
Silver badge

Where in the world is there lots of sunshine?

Hint - it isn't Britain.

It would be genuinely stupid for the UK to invest significantly in direct solar energy, given the general lack of sun.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out why it's massively subsidised in the UK with huge amounts of money is being thrown at wealthy landowners to install it.

13
1
Bronze badge

Re: Follow the money

"Who has made the investment in developing these plants - hint it isn't Britain"

And why would Britain seriously invest money in solar tech of this magnitude. You do know that the UK isn't known for its all year high sunshine levels.

Britain does invest ridiculous levels of subsidy in wind power, which at least has the merit of being more relevant in Blighty, even if throwing the cash into a money-burning power station would probably be more useful.

5
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Follow the money

> It's a pilot plant - it's not supposed to be profitable.

Pilot plants are supposed to demonstrate the possibility of profitability. The are also supposed to have all the problems and issues already worked out and the pilot is just to iron out the kinks.

The plant doesn't contain any revolutionary new technology. Mirrors and motors to point them in the right direction is old tech. Heating fluids up and circulating them is old tech. There is nothing new here that is going to substantially decrease in costs as the "technology" evolves.

> It's use it to avoid having to run gas turbine peak plants

From the article the oil is heated another 200 degrees using a natural gas burner...

I haven't been able to find out how much gas they use to generate 100MW as opposed to a standard CCGT but it would be interesting to find out how much gas this 30K USD per home is saving us.

8
1

Re: Follow the money

Running cost equal build cost? Really? My guess would be a small fraction of that. But let us assume that your inflated figures are correct. I get $178 in capital repayment (5%) and $100 in maintenance (so they collect 200K a month in maintenance. Guess they pay well. ) I don't know where you live but my electric bill is currently more that 270 a month so I am not sure what the subsidies you speak of are for. Thermal solar is very competitive.

1
4

Re: Follow the money

"The are also supposed to have all the problems and issues already worked out and the pilot is just to iron out the kinks."

One mans kinks are another mans issues or problems - the pilot plants in different industries i've known about most certainly had shake-down of inherent issues, and looking for additional ones due to scaling and extended running times, as part of their remit.

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Natural gas burner

"the oil is heated another 200 degrees using a natural gas burner..." That phrase caught my eye as well... firstly, why is the oil at 300 degrees not suitable to boil water that they have to heat it another 200 degrees? Something to do with steam pressure generated or efficiency?

The solar collectors are heating the oil from approx 40 degrees to 300 (260 degrees), and the gas is adding another 200 degrees, that means almost half (43%) the energy is coming from gas not from solar. So does the 100MW total output of the plant mean that actually a bit over 50MW of that are really solar, with the rest coming from the gas?

I guess there were sound technical and/or economical reasons to do it this way, but this certainly is not renewable energy!

10
0

Re: Where in the world is there lots of sunshine?

"It would be genuinely stupid for the UK to invest significantly in direct solar energy, given the general lack of sun."

If that's the case, how come Ecotricity is making someone very rich...?

Oh yeah, FITs, my bad!

2
1
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: Follow the money

"Let's run the numbers.... I would suppose the running costs would possibly equal the build costs (guessing here)..."

You didn't run any numbers. You guessed a few and it turned out that they supported your existing opinion.

And you realise that oil and gas plants are about a billion and nuclear considerably more? Obviously they kick out more power, but have fuel costs, while this is a development technology.

"so they need to recoup at least 2400 USD per year per home, under ideal conditions (yeah right). Clearly this won't happen without subsidies."

Clearly you don't have much experience with living in the Gulf States. Every utility there is subsidised, and often completely free. Taxes are pretty much non-existent. Why? Because we are stupid enough to be entirely dependant on the fossil fuels they sell us and we are subsidising their ENTIRE NATION.

So before complaining that our fuel bills subsidise 'green' companies, remember that they currently subsidise the entire Middle East.

7
6
Silver badge

Re: Follow the money

"From the article the oil is heated another 200 degrees using a natural gas burner..."

Which beats just burning it off, which is what used to happen. Essentially it was 'free' gas.

3
1

Re: Natural gas burner

I'm working from long-buried memories of naval ship steam plants, but if I recall correctly it's not just a matter of the water being in its gaseous phase, but rather getting it very hot and "dry" (also called superheated steam) in order to #1 maximize turbine efficiency, and #2 reduce wear and tear on the turbine blades.

The article may just be deficient in not referring to the natural gas burner as a proper superheater.

5
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: Where in the world is there lots of sunshine?

You are allowed to develop technology that isn't used domestically.

In many countries making things that you can sell to other countries is considered a good thing (tm)

If you had a high tech manufacturing base you might be looking for new things to do with it - rather than just slush-funding it a new defence contract.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Follow the money

> And you realise that oil and gas plants are about a billion.

Where do you get that figure? CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) plant cost about $600/kW which makes 100MW cost about $60M which leaves you with $540 million dollars in change.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Follow the money

> So before complaining that our fuel bills subsidise 'green' companies, remember that they currently subsidise the entire Middle East.

The Middle east has a product that they sell. We buy it. That is not a subsidy.

You may as well claim that we subsidise the USA because of the coke we drink and MacDonalds we eat.

1
3
Silver badge

Re: Natural gas burner

@IglooDude - Thanks for clearing up, that makes more sense.

Also, I understand that they could be using 'free' gas from oil wells that otherwise would be flared off, so it's good that they're making use of resources that would otherwise be wasted.

At first I got to thinking that a major downside to this is that it wouldn't work unless there was a free gas source, and thus has limited scope to be replicated... but then again on further thought, most of teh world's big oil producers in Middle east, West Africa, South/Central America, Southeastern US etc are in good climates for solar, so maybe this has legs after all.

1
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: Follow the money

"The Middle east has a product that they sell. We buy it. That is not a subsidy."

If you'd actually read what was written, people in the Gulf don't tend to pay much/anything for water, electricity and petrol. It's all massively subsidised or provided free by the government, who own the oil. So essentially and very directly we are subsidising the utilities of the common man in the Gulf States.

1
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Follow the money

> If you'd actually read what was written

I did read what was written.

You said:

> So before complaining that our fuel bills subsidise 'green' companies, remember that they currently subsidise the entire Middle East.

You are saying that "our" fuel bills subsidises the Middle East. There is no mistake. Just in case you have any doubt as to what you said here is the previous paragraph:

> Clearly you don't have much experience with living in the Gulf States. Every utility there is subsidised, and often completely free. Taxes are pretty much non-existent. Why? Because we are stupid enough to be entirely dependant on the fossil fuels they sell us and we are subsidising their ENTIRE NATION.

See? You state that "THEY" don't pay because "WE" subsidise them by buying fossil fuels.

0
4
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Follow the money

So you're now arguing about syntax, after I explained to you what was meant?

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Follow the money

> So you're now arguing about syntax

Seriously? You say "If you'd actually read what was written". I did read what was written. I demonstrated how what was written was what I commentated on. I showed how you are making a ridiculous claim that because we buy oil we are subsidising them.

Now you want me to ignore what you write and somehow guess what you actually mean.

I know that Middle Eastern countries subsidise energy. I know that we buy oil from middle eastern countries. Those 2 facts do not mean that *WE* subsidise *THEM*. What *THEY* do with their money is their business.

2
3
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Follow the money

/facepalm.

That money is directly subsidising. It doesn't matter whose money it is, whose business it is, what it's printed on or whatever. It's a direct chain of money from our petrol pumps to people in Gulf nations turning up the A/C and not having to worry about how it costs.

Personally, I'd rather subsidise an investment in technology than support a subsidy structure on the other side of the world. Hell: I'd rather subsidise the utility bills of our own pensioners than I would every Tom, Dick and Harry in another country and encouraging them to burn more of our finite fossil fuel reserves.

0
2
Silver badge

Not the usual suspects!

This isn't a typical bunch of tree-hugging hippies: it's a petrol vehicle manufacturer, an oil company, and an oil-rich Arab state. That these three are taking solar seriously is noteworthy.

6
2
Silver badge

Re: Not the usual suspects!

It's got nothing to do with Mazda (the car company) it's masdar (the UAE's venture capital arm)

Remember the author is american so they often get things confused, especially in the middle east

12
0
Bronze badge

Re: Not the usual suspects!

"This isn't a typical bunch of tree-hugging hippies: it's a petrol vehicle manufacturer, an oil company, and an oil-rich Arab state. That these three are taking solar seriously is noteworthy."

Who do you think are building all those other solar projects, the tree huggers? Uh uh, it's the corporations, and they only do it because of the tax subsidies that put them in the black.

I see a similarity between the dreams of renewable energy and fusion energy; They are always just a few years away from becoming viable. Dream on...

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Not the usual suspects!

Masdar makes a lot more!

Having just returned from Abu Dhabi myself I think this is great news - apart from oil, they are rich in space and hot. Everything is air con, you just can't live or work much past March without it, and that's just when a solar plant will be most effective. Be good to see some allied research into desalination too, again it's the ideal place to do it, coastal, rich, plenty of space and sun, and everything to gain from it.

3
0

Re: Not the usual suspects!

Being noteworthy is the whole point for many participants. It's PR.

Plus, I imagine, if you're a large and wealthy family, you might be on the lookout for interesting projects for the younger members to get involved in.

1
0

Re: Not the usual suspects!

The reason that this is expensive is because the parts are not yet being mass produced, and because its new the cost of financing is high (banks don't like experimental stuff). Since interest rate are at historic lows it is the best time for governments to subsidise infrastructure development.

2
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Not the usual suspects!

> This isn't a typical bunch of tree-hugging hippies

You mean like the multinational called greenpeace that has an annual income of over 200m Euros? Or perhaps you mean like that other multinational called WWF that has an annual income of 525m Euros?

There aren't that many tree hugging hippies left.

6
0
Silver badge

Re: Not the usual suspects!

"Be good to see some allied research into desalination too, again it's the ideal place to do it, coastal, rich, plenty of space and sun, and everything to gain from it."

Errr... they do. It's where a lot of the drinking water comes from. Seawater is renewable, whereas deep desert boreholes and aquifers are now.

However, the de-sal plants aren't big ponds running off solar energy, but gas-powered industrial sites. Essentially it's 'free' gas for them, as otherwise it'd be burned off and wasted.

Ironically in these nations, natural gas is less of a precious resource than desert water.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Not the usual suspects!

"It's got nothing to do with Mazda (the car company) it's masdar (the UAE's venture capital arm)"

Ooops! My bad. Thanks for pointing that out.

Even so, it's still not a bunch of hippies: it's oil-people looking to the future by preparing for the switch to renewables: this is a Big Deal™.

0
0

Nomen est omen, shams is plural of sham, first in the row. And I can't see the point in using this stupid thermodynamic cycle while there is a PV-glut, and cloudless & sunny Arabia is an ideal place for their deployment. It's probably nothing more than lip service to Greens and an attempt to undermine development of the only serious competition to fossils -- i.e. nuclear energy.

2
4

@praos

"It's probably nothing more than ... an attempt to undermine development of the only serious competition to fossils -- i.e. nuclear energy."

You're right - only the FOOLS whose hats are made of THIN TIN cannot see this !!

(although I agree to a large extent with your PV comment)

2
0
Happy

Eventually there will be massive solar arrays in space permanently fixed on the sun transmitting the power back to Earth via microwaves to central distribution points. The problem is, all this could be avoided if they would just come up with zero-point energy or, reliable fusion. So the question is, is this all a waste of money? Just how far away is fusion power? It would be nice if we could convert sea water into power. We certainly would have enough to last us until we do develop zero-point energy.

The smiley face because it looks the most like the sun, the biggest fusion plant around.

1
5
Anonymous Coward

Eventually there will be massive solar arrays in space permanently fixed on the sun transmitting the power back to Earth via microwaves to central distribution points

Not sure I'm going to be very happy with that. Strikes me as an ideal idea for terrorist or rogue governments to point the nice beams elsewhere..

2
3
Silver badge

"Not sure I'm going to be very happy with that. Strikes me as an ideal idea for terrorist or rogue governments to point the nice beams elsewhere.."

I think they might think of that.

You might as well claim that the problem with ICBMs is that terrorists could just break in and launch them.

1
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

@AC

Read up on the proposals, the beams are to be sent to a large receiver, such a low strength that you could walk under it and just feel a bit warm.. It is the efficiency of rectenners used on the ground that make it better to capture the solar in space and beam it down vs building the PV/Solar Thermal collectors on earth...

so no big explosions, no frying people with the beam... and If current military satellites are secure enough to not be hijacked, I am sure they can make this secure...

1
1
Gold badge

Re: @AC

Damn. There go my plans for world domination.

Oh well, back to Linux then :)

1
0
Mushroom

The real problem with ICBMs

is that some gung-ho cowboy with a communist/islamist/blackist phobia might get a bad case of twitchy finger

0
1
Gold badge
Flame

"Not sure I'm going to be very happy with that. Strikes me as an ideal idea for terrorist or rogue governments to point the nice beams elsewhere.."

It made a great plot device for a Ben Bova novel.

IRL it's b****it

JPL have been lead researchers on this and you can look up why the terrorist hijack idea is rubbish yourself.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: The real problem with ICBMs

50+ years and it's not happened yet!

0
0
Bronze badge

space mirrors etc

I find it slightly perplexing that Reg readers seem to be on a general downer about the prospects of solar power and other renewables (for cost reasons), yet are generally enthused about putting mirrors and solar plants in space (the ISS cost $100 billion).

I live in Dubai, just down the road from this plant. There is loads of empty desert and it's sunny 360 days per year. Maybe you can get 3 times the power from the same sized panel in space (stronger sunlight, less dust), but it'll cost you 1000 or 10,000 times as much to get the whole thing up there, and to run it. When it breaks you need to send a $50 million dollar servicing mission, when the thing breaks in the desert, you send some fat, sweaty bloke with a spanner.

If you cannot make solar power viable here, it's not going to work anywhere, and certainly not in space.

21
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Re: space mirrors etc

The primary reason solar power isn't viable is it only works when the sun shines (I'm not going to rehash the argument over energy storage here, suffice to say, no you can't store it in batteries for nighttime use). In space (with the right orbit) the sun shines all the time.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: space mirrors etc

How much are they paying for the 'water' part of the operation and where does it come from?

0
0
Mushroom

Re: space mirrors etc

" (I'm not going to rehash the argument over energy storage here, suffice to say, no you can't store it in batteries for nighttime use)"

Interesting attempt to avoid the obvious argument by preemption with a spurious assumption. No one in their right mind would suggest batteries for storage of this kind of energy. Most likely solution is to turn the excess energy obtained during the day into hydro-carbons for storage and possibly distribution.

0
0

Re: space mirrors etc

You can store the heat of a solar thermal plant in oil, molten salt or supersaturated salty wate and draw the heat from them to keep turbines spinning.

3
0

solar thermal heat storage

"suffice to say, no you can't store it in batteries for nighttime use"

Apart from the fact that nighttime demand is lower than daytime due to aircon, also the fact that evening lighting demand is much greater than pre dawn demand, this kind of solar thermal plant lends itself to storage of the heat in the form of hot rocks and hot sand. That's much cheaper than pumped water storage in this kind of situation, and also integrates well between the operations of the heat collection and electricity generation plant design, without needing so many expensive external components and systems. Lower loss of heat from a thermal store for early evening demand also compared to pre-dawn demand, based on given insulation values.

That's a possibility where solar thermal is likely to give better storage options than solar voltaic. The cost of heat storage or any kind of electrical storage for that matter is also trivial compared to orbital launch and maintenance costs.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: space mirrors etc

"If you cannot make solar power viable here, it's not going to work anywhere, and certainly not in space."

Yup.

And it can be viable here, too. Even if we don't create super-efficient solar panels, we have an awful lot of land that's not usable for anything better, and the sun isn't going to run out on us any time soon.

For me, turning empty desert into the power-stations of the world and doing away with 'local' national stations is one of the more viable ways of powering our civilisation in future years.

1
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: space mirrors etc

"How much are they paying for the 'water' part of the operation and where does it come from?"

The sea?

1
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.