The Shams 1 solar power plant, a joint venture between Masdar and France’s Total, is generating electricity to power 20,000 homes and playing a vital role in meeting the UAE’s energy demand, a top official said.

“Shams is a very important project not only for shareholders but also for the UAE,” said Majed Al Awadi, general manager of Shams Power Company. “It paved the way for projects like Mohammad Bin Rashid Park in Dubai and others. Its success enabled people to invest in solar projects without worry,”

Al Awadi, earlier associated with Borouge petrochemical plant in Al Ruwais, took over the reins of Shams 1 power plant in March and has big plans for it. Shams 1, inaugurated in 2013 at Madinat Zayed in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region, is one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world. It has an installed capacity of 100MW. Shams 1 was built for $600 million (Dh2.2 billion).

MADINAT ZAYED, WESTERN REGION OF ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – March 17, 2013: HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi (R), looks at the Shams 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant during the opening ceremony. Shams 1 is a project of the Shams Power Company, a subsidiary of Masdar, in association with Total and Abengoa Solar. Seen with HH Sheikh Tahnoon bin Mohammed Al Nahyan Ruler’s Representative of the Eastern Region (L), HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber CEO of Masdar (2nd L), HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces (3rd L), HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice-President Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (4th L) and others..( Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi ).—

In the short term, Al Awadi said he will mainly focus on safety, efficiency and development of manpower at the power project. “Concentrated Solar Power plant is not much different from a normal power plant. We have steam, gas, a lot of equipment and a big turbine. There are hazards in this type of work and we always want to keep our contractors and people safe.

“My second priority is efficiency. Shams has been delivering excellent results. Generation of power is our business and we have to continue doing it. We will work on maintenance, on how to improve the operation of our processes and how we can reduce cost and maximise generation of power.

He will also be focusing on the development of Shams’ visitor centre, which will be located at the plant itself. It will be a hub for knowledge on renewable energy, solar energy and technology, Al Awadi said.

“We will use it as a platform to build relations with international delegates, with local entities, with universities and other visitors.”

When asked whether there were plans to expand the solar plant further, Al Awadi said it has the capability, but the decision has to come from the government. “The majority of countries in the region recognise the importance of renewable energy. There is a trend for diversifying the source of energy due to continuous increase in demand. Whether you invest early and become a leader or you wait until it is late. The UAE has taken a lead since 2006, when Masdar was created.”

Saudi Arabia is also building new solar power plants to meet growing power demand.