First 24-hour concentrated solar power plant to be built in Abu Dhabi

The world’s first 24-hour concentrated solar energy plant, consisting of reflective mirrors arranged around a central tower, could shine in Abu Dhabi, a senior engineer at a Spanish engineering company said.

Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar and Spanish engineering company Sener, is studying the possibility of building such a solar thermal plant in the capital, said Pedro Mugarra, Managing director of Sener.

The solar thermal project depends on approval and subsidies of the concentrated solar power (CPS) project from the Abu Dhabi government and funding from the banks, he said.

"We have started [undertaking] studies. If, and underscore if, the plant goes on, it will take at least five to 10 years," Mugarra said.

Gemasolar, which is based in Spain, is the world’s first commercial concentrating solar thermal power plant to use the central tower technology that costs about €300 million (Dh1.4 billion).

The cost of the plant here would depend on the size and energy needs of Abu Dhabi, Mugarra said. "Every investment you plan has to respond to the business case."

Masdar is "pushing" for the project in Abu Dhabi, as well as in South Africa and the US, but no conclusions have been reached with the Abu Dhabi government, he said.

"A technical study could be done in just two months.

"The problem is that you have to go to the banks for finance and you have to convince the authorities that they should subsidise.

"All that takes time," he said, adding that he was optimistic because of the company’s experience in this field.

Gemasolar was officially inaugurated in October by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

Even in darkness

The 19.9-megawatt Gemasolar is the first concentrating solar thermal power of its kind in the world in terms of size and the novel technology being adopted.

The facility features a central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology.

The technology allows solar power to be stored and electricity produced from it even during hours of darkness or poor daylight in winter.

The tower marks the first part of Masdar’s Dh5.18 billion investment in Spanish power production.

The Gemasolar concentrating solar thermal power plant has been operational since June and has already delivered its first uninterrupted 24 hours of electricity.

Deena Kamel Yousef,