It seems not a week has gone by this summer without a solar power project of outlandish proportions being announced. On 18 August the Indian state of Kerala launched the first entirely solar-powered airport. Which is fairly impressive when one considers that Cochin International Airport is one of India’s largest airports, with over 1.5 million square feet of terminal space. The following week the United States government approved the Blythe Mesa Solar Project that is touted to be ‘one of the world’s biggest solar power plants’. Attempts at similarly sized projects in the California desert had been made over the years but failed due to fierce opposition from desert tortoises, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, and the environmentalists that love them.
Yet Oman may be set to outshine (if you’ll pardon the pun) all of the others. The country’s national oil company has partnered with solar developer GlassPoint to build what would be the world’s largest solar project. The facility, Miraah (or “mirror” in Arabic), will produce in excess of 1,000 megawatts, or nearly double that of today’s largest currently operating solar farm. And why, you might ask, is the oil company involved? Because the country’s oil reserves require massive injections of steam to loosen the heavy oil and get the wells flowing. Traditionally gas is used, but with solar power now purportedly offering steam generation capabilities, the country is keen to avoid further depletion of its natural gas reserves.