by Katie Fehrenbacher
Using tech from a California, venture capital-backed startup, one of the world’s largest solar farms will emerge in the Middle East and help aid oil production.
One of the world’s largest solar farms is planned for the deserts of the Persian Gulf country Oman. But unlike most solar plants that produce electricity to power homes and buildings, the gigantic solar farm will use the sun’s rays to create steam that will help the Arab nation extract oil out of the ground.
The project called Miraah (mirror in Arabic) will be built across more than a square mile — 360 soccer fields — at the Amal oil field. When completed the solar plant will produce 6,000 tons of steam every day that will be used for oil production, and have a capacity for over a gigawatt of energy (the equivalent of a large natural gas or nuclear plant).
The solar farm will be built by Petroleum Development Oman, which is a joint venture between oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, energy company Total, and the Omani government. The technology will come from a California startup called GlassPoint. Construction of the project will start later this year and the site is expected to start producing steam in 2017.
The deal is not only a vote of confidence for this relatively new technology, but it’s a big win for the startup behind it. GlassPoint, based in Fremont, California, was founded in 2008 and early on backed by venture capitalists RockPort Capital, Nth Power and Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, as well as the VC arm of Shell. Last year, Oman’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the State General Reserve Fund, led the company’s most recent round of funding.