Iran inaugurated its first solar energy power plant this week, adding 250 KW of solar energy to the country’s grid.

Shiraz Solar Thermal Energy Plant, IranThe Shiraz solar power plant boasts a modest 250 KW energy production capacity. It’s a solar thermal plant that uses parabolic mirrored troughs to gather sunlight. The mirrors focus the sunlight in an intense ray on a tube that runs the length of the array of mirrors. Inside the tube, a liquid insulated by a vacuum transfers the heat of the mirrors to a traditional generator, where it’s used to produce steam and generate electricity.

Placing an economic value on renewable resources makes sunny Iran rich in solar energy potential. Iran took its first step toward the large scale realization of that potential this week with the inauguration of its first solar energy plant. The plant was constructed with domestic materials and labour in Shiraz, the Fars province.

This solar thermal plant joins some 4,075 small scale solar thermal installations throughout Iran–3,781 residential solar water heaters and 294 public baths heated with solar thermal energy. Iran makes less use of photovoltaic energy, but the Ministry of Energy News Agency mentions a 40 house solar village supplied with photovoltaic energy.

The Iran Daily reports that Iranian energy minister Parviz Fattah sees the Shiraz plant as a first step in Iran’s commitment to solar energy technology, which will increase in Iran along with greater government investment.

“The country backs the use of alternative and renewable energy sources,” said Fattah. “In future alternative energy sources will be greatly developed in the country. The growth of investments in this sphere is expected.”

English information about the Shiraz plant is hard to come by, but more photos of the plant and information in Farsi is available via the Renewable Energy Organization of Iran. Another source, an article in the Tehran Times (no longer available in the paper’s archives, but republished here by a reader) suggests that the completion of the solar plant was several years behind schedule, having been initially slated for the Iranian year 1383 rather than the current year 1387.

Regardless, kudos to Iran on their first solar power plant.

Additional sources: First Solar Power Station built in Iran (Trend News via CleanTechnica); Renewable energy evolution under subsidized fossil fuel prices in Iran
by Niloofar Sharbafian and M. Mazraati of the Technology University of Vienna [PPT Slideshow]

Image Credit: Renewable Energy Organization of Iran