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Solar energy refers to the radiant energy that is usually emitted by the sun. This type of energy can be harnessed through the help of a range of technologies such as solar thermal electricity, solar photovoltaic, solar heating, as well as solar architectures, among others (Delmon & Delmon, 2010).
The technologies could either be passive or active. After it is harnessed, solar energy can be put on either domestic or commercial uses. It is a renewable source of energy that is environmentally friendly (Kurokawa, 2007).
A number of projects in the UAE use renewable solar energy. However, there have been challenges in lighting the streets of Abu Dhabi using the solar energy, although this has not stopped solar projects from being developed. It should be noted that the United Arab Emirates has been on the frontline in harnessing solar energy. In fact, the world’s largest solar energy generating plant is located in Abu Dhabi.
It is called the Shams, a 100 megawatt plant that was launched in the western side of Abu Dhabi in March of the year 2013. The project, among others, is aimed at developing solar energy in areas where there are harsh weather conditions. These are areas with high temperatures, accompanied by strong winds (Shams Power Company PJSC, 2013).
Masdar Company has become very efficient in the production of energy using solar panels. There is a great amount of space, 210,000 square meters that is covered with unique solar absorbing panels that provide energy for the company.
Masdar has become a city where clean energy is one of the most featured energy productions, thus it can be considered to be one of a kind in the world, up until this time (Masdar A Mubadala Company, 2012).
The process of harnessing solar energy involves the collection of sunlight and then converting it into electricity. In its natural form, solar energy cannot be used to produce any electric power. To convert it, large solar panels can be used. The inside of the solar panels is made of single solar cells. It is through these cells that the solar energy undergoes conversion as it passes through.
This method of conversion has been used in most cases (Kulichenko & Wirth, 2012). However, the Shams Power Company and Masdar Company plant is different since it uses the parabolic trough technology to convert solar energy into electricity.
The technical specifications of the project include a solar resource, a solar field aperture, a solar field inlet and outlet, loops, solar collectors, modules, heat collector elements, and heat transfer fluid, among others (Kalogirou, 2013).
Highly skilled people have been involved in the process. In addition, there are a lot of monetary expenses that have gone into the project with an estimated USD 600 million said to have been spent on the project so far.
This plant has very large fields of parabolic collectors, and a system that generates heat transfer liquids. It also has a steam turbine cycle, a thermal storage which is optional and is only installed at the will of the designers. This one is used for backup. Solar collectors make up the collector field.
They are in the form of a large field of single axis. It is important to note that the nature of the solar field is modular, and that it has a number of parallel solar collector rows. The rows are aligned in such a way that they are on a horizontal axis that poses north and south of the system (Kalogirou, 2013).
Each of these collectors has a reflector that is designed to resemble a parabolic shape. The beam radiation is captured by the reflector. It is important to note that the radiation comes as a linear beam straight from the sun. It has the ability of tracking the sun from the time of its onset until it sets off in the west.
The liquid (heat transfer liquid) is heated by these radiations to a temperature of up to about 393 degrees Celsius (Kalogirou, 2013). At the liquid is being heated, it is circulating in the linear receiver. The liquid turns into steam that is highly heated. The steam then moves to the steam generator.
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It turns the generator and eventually produces electricity. This steam is later condensed and moves through a condensate to return back to the heat exchanger where it is heated again to repeat the cycle. It is a significant fact that the solar panels can be built on almost any devise or equipment. Solar energy use can also be made a more private energy source, used by the public.
This will allow for widespread access and a much higher energy output. The energy is applied as mechanical, thermo and any other form of energy, which can be used in the agriculture and other places. Solar panels are considered one of the most used renewable sources of energy. (Morris, 2006).
Even the solar flares which are potentially harmful for people can be used for energy. The cycles of this natural occurrence can be calculated and the equipment adjusted. As such, a particular place on Earth will get more energy absorbed and produced, which can sever off the negating ill effects of the flares.
Uses of Solar Energy in Shams Power Company and Masdar Company
Both companies realize that solar energy can also be used for home appliances. These are appliances such as cookers, water heaters as well as irons. It can therefore be used for cooking, for heating water and ironing clothes. Cooking using solar energy is advantageous in that it is relatively cheap (Kulichenko & Wirth, 2012).
Another possible use of solar energy is to transform saline water to water that is safe and clean for human consumption. It further assists in the disinfection, as well as the distillation process.
Broadly speaking, the uses of solar energy are varied and broad. However, the various uses depend on how the solar power has been harnessed and distributed for use. The Shams Power Company generates a high solar energy technology that is designed for a wide range of uses.
Its uses go beyond just domestic purposes and lighting purposes. The plant can make power that is enough to serve approximately 20,000 households. Therefore, it is used for domestic purposes.
Masdar Company also generates sufficient energy to power companies and industries. This is sufficient energy to power a number of industrial machines across the region. Establishing a solar plant that has the ability of powering industries is a strategic positioning by the United Arab Emirates, especially Masdar, considering the fact that there has been a global advocacy for greener power (Mehzer, Tabbara, & Al-Hosany, 2010).
In the future, the companies that use renewable energy will be having a competitive advantage over those that use non-renewable energy. Therefore, the Shams Power Company and Masdar Company could be developed with the aim of strategizing the region for the future economic development.
It is interesting to note that Masdar acknowledges the reality that the amount of sun rays is enormous and presently, there are many places in the world, as well as technologies that use sun as the energy source. Masdar has invested monetary resources into researching and developing clean energy technology all over the world.
The “DB Masdar Clean Energy Fund” invests into companies and nations that are determined to use clean energy. As there are times when the sun is absent and it is impossible to make using human technology, the use of wind or water power has been known to people for some time.
Hydro electric stations have proven themselves as a clean energy source. Also, there is no guarantee that rivers will always flow and produce energy. Biofuel is another option that has seen some support. A positive side is that it is made from animal and plant products and has been already widely used.
But the tradeoff is an unstable production rate, as well as pollution and lack of land or resources to produce enough plants or animals (Dell, 2004). Wind can also be used by the reliance on wind turbines, but it is also dependant on the weather. As a result, Masdar understands that use of several types of energy sources to produce clean power.
Masdar Company solar plant is important for in the displacement of carbon dioxide from the environment. The parabolic trough technology is designed in such a way that it has the ability of displacing approximately 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas that contributes to the increased global warming (Shams Power Company PJSC, 2013). Global warming has become an issue of international concern among leaders and residents.
The increasing earth’s temperatures have devastating effects on the ecosystem, as well as on the economic development of the globe. Carbon dioxide is said to have the worst effects of the global warming among all the other greenhouse gases (Masdar A Mubadala Company, 2012).
Advantages and Disadvantages
The solar energy has a number of advantages and disadvantages, some of which will be discussed here. There are efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emission, as well as its concentration in the environment all over the world. The Shams Power Company and Masdar Company solar plant’s objectives are in line with this bid. The project was developed with an aim of reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the environment.
The displacement of 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the environment by this plant is equivalent to the volume of carbon dioxide that 1.5 million trees would displace (Shams Power Company PJSC, 2013). The benefit of using the solar energy is said to be equal to doing away with close to 15,000 vehicles that would cause pollution by producing carbon dioxide.
Therefore, the plant reduces the need to remove cars from the road, as well as the number of trees that have to be planted to deal with the issue of global warming. This will go a long way in reducing global warming (Ramady, 2012).
Another major advantage of this plant is that the parabolic trough technology has the ability to store solar thermal energy during the dry periods and use it during the non- sunny seasons (Delmon & Delmon, 2010). Sun is not always consistent throughout the year. There are periods when the sun may shine for a few hours only, or it may not be there completely.
This might cause inconveniences because solar energy plants would not be in a position to generate sufficient energy. The wet seasons are actually the seasons when power is needed, especially domestically.
Statistics indicate that more power is consumed during these periods because many people spend most of their time indoors and they use electricity to generate extra warmth. The parabolic trough technology ensures a constant supply of energy even during the periods when the sun is not sufficient to generate enough energy (Ferroukhi et al. 2013).
Shams enhance security not only domestically, but also in the whole community. Many times criminals are associated with the dark corners. Providing sufficient light will be effective in reducing their hideout joints and enhancing the general security. Electricity is a social amenity to the society.
It improves the quality of life for residents and boosts their satisfaction. It also has an effect on their productivity in the economy. It is easier for people to concentrate more on production and improve their productivity when they are satisfied and they have better living conditions (OECD, 2013).
The plant may also have a number of disadvantages. For instance, constructing such a plant is very costly because a lot of resources are required to put up such a system (Kurokawa, 2007). For instance, the cost of the plant is expected to rise beyond the USD 600 million that has already been spent so far in 3 years considering that it is a long term project that is yet to be completed.
Raising such an amount of money is not easy for the company. In addition, there is no guarantee that the amount invested will be paid back (Kable, 2013). The fact that the solar parabolic trough system is not capable of producing fluid temperature, which is high compared to other solar power technologies, makes it relatively less efficient for electricity production (Kurokawa, 2007).
Solar energy is an alternative to the fossil fuels because it is cleaner and friendlier to the environment. In an era when global warming has been a major concern to the world leaders, it the high time that renewable energy should be embraced among the industries. Solar energy is cheap in that the sun is freely accessible, thus it has the ability of reducing the costs of production by a great percentage.
The Shams Power Company and Masdar Company solar plant are said to be the largest of their kind in the world. There are plants in America but none of them is known to displace carbon dioxide like the one in UAE. The technology for the plant in the UAE is also the best there is.
The government of the United Arab Emirates should encourage further development of similar plants to reduce global warming and be in line with the advocacy for green economies.
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