Dubai to build the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant
Can you make solar power work when the sun goes down? You can, and Dubai is about to run a city that way.
- A new concentrated solar plant is under construction in Dubai.
- When it opens next year, it will be the largest plant of its kind on Earth.
- Concentrated solar power solves the problem of how to store electricity in ways that solar pannels cannot.
A Saudi power company will soon begin construction on the world's largest concentrated solar plant. Situated in the United Arab Emirates, the plant will have an estimated capacity of 700 megawatts and a power storage system that will keep the lights of Dubai shining for up to 15 hours after sunset.
Dubai goes solar
Noor Energy 1, as the project is called, will also include a vast solar panel array for good measure. When it is completed in 2020, it will provide Dubai with 24-hour access to clean energy. It will dwarf the current record holder, Noor-Ouarzazate CSP in Morocco.
Solar Tower Power
Concentrated solar power (CSP) is a bit different than the solar power most people are familiar with. While solar panels are well known and increasingly popular as a source of energy, concentrated solar power has yet to capture the popular imagination in the same way. This is a shame.
Abdulhameed Al-Muhaidib, the director of asset management at Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power, explained the difference between typical solar panels and this technology to Arab News:
"It's a completely different technology because you have to do a heat exchange and (use) steam turbines, a process that makes it more expensive than solar PV, the main benefit is storage because you can store heat, while in panels you can't and lithium batteries are still expensive."
Because storing heat is a bit easier than storing huge amounts of electric power, these plants can be more desirable than large solar panel arrays when the problem of providing energy after dark needs to be solved. However, while photovoltaic cells can produce a fair amount of power when the sun isn't shining, concentrated solar plants generate practically nothing when weather conditions aren't favorable.
How does it work?
The picture at the top shows an artist's impression of the soon to be built facility. The little objects in a circle around the tower you see are not solar panels but mirrors that reflect sunlight onto a tiny point in the central tower. The concentrated light is then used as a heat source for an otherwise conventional steam driven power plant.
The plant in Dubai will not use water to store the sun's heat. Instead, the concentrated sunlight will heat molten salt. This is because molten salt retains its heat longer than water does. This will allow for the energy to be stored long after the sunsets at a fraction of the cost of lithium-ion batteries.
When Dubai needs electricity, the heated salt will be pumped out of storage and used to boil water to make steam. When it has cooled, it can be recycled and used again.
While concentrated solar power remains largely unknown to the general public, it will soon be lighting up one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Will this prove to be the project that makes CSP mainstream and competitive with photovoltaic cells? Time will tell.
We are constantly trying to force the world to look like us — we need to move on.
- When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many Americans jumped for joy. At the time, some believed there weren't going to be any more political disagreements anywhere in the world. They thought American democracy had won the "war of ideas."
- American exceptionalism has sought to create a world order that's really a mirror image of ourselves — a liberal world order founded on the DNA of American thinking. To many abroad this looks like ethnic chauvinism.
- We need to move on from this way of thinking, and consider that sometimes "problem-solving," in global affairs, means the world makes us look like how it wants to be.
Scientists make an important discovery for the future of computing.
- Researchers find a new state of matter called "topological superconductivity".
- The state can lead to important advancements in quantum computing.
- Utilizing special particles that emerge during this state can lead to error-free data storage and blazing calculation speed.
French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
- The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
- French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
- Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.