Masdar's zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town  

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The Guardian has an update on the Masdar experiment in the gulf state of Abu Dhabi - Masdar's zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town.

the rationale for Masdar City – demonstrating a model of green living – has been abandoned. “The original aim was to be net zero, yes, but that was when we were looking at the city in isolation,” Wan said. He maintained it was important to look at Masdar City within the context of the other renewable energy holdings of the parent company. Among Mubadala’s other holdings, Masdar Clean Energy is developing the Shams solar farm. “Masdar as a family company is supply[ing] much, much more clean energy than what is being consumed in the city, for sure,” Wan said. ...

With the downward pressure from oil prices, the UAE has stepped up its efforts to wean itself off oil, lifting fossil fuel subsidies and billing Emiratis – not just expatriates – for water and electricity.

But delivering on the original dream of Masdar has been elusive. Crews broke ground in 2008, but plans withered in the global economic recession which soon followed when investors put their green dreams on hold. “A lot of the people who were considering investing in Masdar City decided to take a breather,” Wan said.

Meanwhile, the jet-set transport system was overtaken by technological developments in the auto sector. The expensive purpose-built system no longer made sense in an era when zero-emission electric cars were widely available. “Five years ago it’s true that we did not perceive the speed with which the electric vehicle would be developed,” Wan said.

The National reports that the Shams 1 solar thermal power plant recently celebrated its third anniversary, however at this point CSP still isn't cost competitive with solar PV - Abu Dhabi weighs more cost-effective solar technologies.

CSP was anticipated to take the region by storm when Shams 1 was being developed, with projects also cropping up in Morocco. As a result, Shams was expected to have two additional projects added. Mr Al Obaidli said the land was originally reserved for three CSP plants, but times have changed and more cost-­competitive options are now availab .

Although he declined to give exact figures, Mr Al Obaidli said that the Shams 1 costs more than the average price of CSP. According to Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), production costs for the technology range between 20 and 25 US cents per kilowatt-hour.

But Mr Al Obaidli pointed to the fact that Shams was one of the first CSP projects in the region. “It’s not at today’s electricity prices because when we built Shams, there was only one supplier in the world for mirrors. Now there are at least seven bankable mirror suppliers in the market." In comparison, Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which uses PV technology, was awarded at a tender of 5.84 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Cleantechnica reports that the Shams 1 plant has been generating more power than expected so far - Solar Power Plant In Oil-Rich Abu Dhabi Beats Expectations — Again.

Shams 1 is a 100 megawatt facility with 258,048 mirrors arranged in parabolic troughs covering 2.5 square kilometers. It’s the only plant of its kind in the world completely surrounded by a solid wall - and that’s a critical difference between Shams 1 and other concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. As explained by Al Obaidli, the wall provides a significant measure of protection from desert wind and sandstorms. Storm-grade winds can take out large sections of equipment in a conventional CSP plant, but according to Al Obaidli, one of the strongest storms in recent memory passed through last year and it only damaged 20 out of the 258,048 mirrors.

The parabolic troughs themselves also include design features that prevent wind damage. On just a few minutes’ notice they can be rotated into a “safety” position, and then locked in place.

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