Dust Blocking Sun Rays at Solar Plant in Abu Dhabi, Masdar Official Says

Abu Dhabi’s Shams solar power plant, owned by state-owned renewable energy company Masdar, Abengoa SA and Total SA, will receive less energy than planned because of dust particles in the area are blocking sunlight, a Masdar official said.

Shams 1, the world’s largest concentrated solar thermal plant, will receive less power from the sun than was expected when its financial forecasts were drawn up because of dust particles that were not picked up by a satellite assessment of solar radiation at the site, Masdar Power Director Frank Wouters said.

“Dust in the atmosphere absorbed a substantial part of the direct irradiation,” Wouters said at a conference in Barcelona. “There’s a huge difference between PowerPoint and real life.”

Abu Dhabi, holder of almost all the oil reserves in the United Arab Emirates, has suffered a number of setbacks this year to its aim of becoming a hub for renewable energy.

Earlier this month, Masdar said it will delay the first phase of its $22 billion low-carbon city after undertaking a review during the financial crisis. This week the International Renewable Energy Agency, for which Abu Dhabi lobbied to host the headquarters, appointed Adnan Amin as interim director general after Helene Pelosse quit.

The Shams 1 project will cost $600 million and generate about 100 megawatts of power from 2012 in Madinat Zayed, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of Abu Dhabi. Total and Abengoa will each own 20 percent of the plant, the largest such project in the world, with 768 parabolic mirrors extending over a 2.5- square-kilometer area, Masdar said June 9.

The plant will need more mirrors to achieve its target capacity, although the extra cost is within the margin of error. The total cost will remain about the same, Wouter said.

“Does it still make sense? Yes it does,” Wouter said. Masdar is “squeezing the hell out of” its construction partners to keep the project on budget, he said.

Masdar already has a 10-megawatt photovoltaic, or PV, plant in Abu Dhabi. PV plants use solar panels, which convert sunlight directly to electricity. Concentrated solar reflects sunlight, usually with mirrors, to heat liquids that generate power with steam turbines.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net; Ayesha Daya in Dubai adaya1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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