SESAME becomes the world’s first large accelerator complex to be fully powered by renewable energy

26 February, 2019
SESAME's solar plant.
© SESAME 2018: SESAME's solar power plant.

Today (26 February 2019), a ceremony was held to mark the official inauguration of the solar power plant of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East).

Constructed on grounds next to JAEC (Jordan Atomic Energy Commission) that is located some 30kms from SESAME, electricity from the solar power plant will be supplied by an on-grid photovoltaic system having a total power capacity of 6.48 MW, which will amply satisfy SESAME’s needs for several years. 

Thanks to this power plant SESAME is now not only the first synchrotron light facility in the region, but also the world’s first large accelerator complex to be fully powered by renewable energy.

“As in the case of all accelerators, SESAME is  in dire need of energy, and as the number of its users increases so will its electricity bill” said the Director of SESAME, Khaled Toukan. “Given the very high cost of electricity in Jordan, with this solar power plant the Centre becomes sustainable” he continued to say.

The power plant, which uses monocrystalline solar panels, was built by the Jordanian company Kawar Energy under the supervision of the consultancy firm Consolidated Consultants Group representing the owner, SESAME. Power from the solar power plant will be transmitted to the grid through the wheeling mechanism by JEPCO (Jordan Electric Power Company). The power that the solar power plant sends to the grid will be accounted for to the credit of SESAME.

The necessary funding for the solar power plant became available in late 2016 when the Government of Jordan through the Ministry of Energy, generously agreed to allocate JD 5 million (US$7.05 million) from funds provided by the European Union (EU) to support the deployment of clean energy sources. 

Sirpa Tulla representing the Head of the EU Delegation to Jordan, welcomed the good use Jordan had made of the European Union’s funds and reminded the audience that her Organization stood firmly behind SESAME.

The President of the SESAME Council, Rolf Heuer, thanked both the EU and the Jordanian Authorities for their generosity and continuous support and encouraged other accelerator laboratories to follow SESAME’s example.

SESAME opened its doors to users in July 2018 and since then 23 user groups have used its facilities. A second call for beam time on its XAFS/XRF (X-ray Absorption Fine Structure/X-Ray Fluorescence) spectroscopy and IR (Infrared) spectromicroscopy beamlines issued in September 2018 resulted in 103 applications, which is large by any standards, and is a clear indication of the essential need for a synchrotron light source in the region. The Centre is now working on construction of four of its next beamlines. These are the MS (Materials Science), MX (Macromolecular Crystallography), and BEATS (BEAmline for Tomography at SESAME) beamlines, as well as a soft X-ray beamline.


  1. SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) is a 2.5 GeV synchrotron light source that was officially inaugurated on 16 May 2017. It is the first light source in the Middle East, and also the region's first true international centre of excellence. There are some 60 synchrotron light sources in the world, including a few in developing countries.
  2. The Members of SESAME are currently Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey (others are being sought). Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA are Observers as are CERN and the European Union. Like CERN, SESAME was set up under the auspices of UNESCO, but is now a completely independent intergovernmental organisation.
  3. SESAME will both:
    • Foster scientific and technological capacities and excellence in the Middle East and neighbouring regions (and help prevent or reverse the brain drain) by enabling world-class research in subjects ranging from biology and medical sciences through materials science, physics and chemistry to archaeology - much focussed on issues of regional importance, e.g. related to the environment, health, and agriculture, and
    • Build scientific links and foster better understanding and a culture of peace through collaboration between peoples with different creeds and political systems.
  4. Synchrotron light source are equipped with beamlines that focus the light on samples that scientists wish to study. Each beamline can support several experiments in series and in parallel. SESAME will be exploited in up to 26 or more experiments operating simultaneously on 26 independent beamlines.
  5. In the first phase there will be seven beamlines. Two (the X-ray Absorption Fine Structure/X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy Beamline and Infrared Beamline, which support work in basic materials science, life sciences and environmental science, biochemistry, microanalysis, archaeology, geology, cell biology, biomedical diagnostics, environmental science, etc.) are already in operation.
  6. The users of SESAME are based in universities and research institutes in the region. They visit the laboratory periodically to carry out experiments, where are exposed to the highest scientific standards. The potential user community, which is growing rapidly and already numbers over 300, has been, and is being, fostered by a series of Users' Meetings and by training opportunities (supported by the European Union, the IAEA, the Rutherford Fund (UK), various governments and many of the world's synchrotron laboratories) which are bringing significant benefits to the region.
  7. Some US$100 million have so far been invested in SESAME (including the value of the land and building provided by Jordan and of donated equipment, and all operational costs). Staff costs, provision of power, and other operational costs are provided by the Members’ annual contributions. Capital funding has been provided by the Governments of Jordan, Israel, and Turkey, the Royal Court of Jordan, and by the European Union (through CERN and directly) and Italy, and equipment that became surplus to requirements has been donated by France, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K.
  8. SESAME has come into operation with minimal supporting infrastructure and only two beamlines.  Challenges for the future include: funding the end station for the Materials Science beamline, and construction of the Macromolecular Crystallography beamline and one further beamline planned in phase 1 of SESAME; funding construction of a conference centre, which (when SESAME is not in use during maintenance work) will be used for regional meetings on other issues (water resources, agriculture, pollution, disease,..); building a new full energy injection system in order to produce much  greater integrated fluxes of synchrotron light; and last but not least further building up the user community.
  9. In common with all other accelerators, synchrotron light sources use large amounts of electrical power. Thanks to the solar power plant being inaugurated, SESAME, which will only pay for transmission charges, will be able to draw as much power from the grid as the plant supplies.  This will effectively halve the level the annual budget would otherwise have reached as SESAME comes fully into operation, thereby making SESAME economically as well as environmentally sustainable.

For further contact: Clarissa Formosa-Gauci

Dignitaries formally inaugurate SESAME's solar energy plant. Cutting the ribbon are (left to right): SESAME Director Khaled Toukan, President of the SESAME Council, Rolf Heuer and Sirpa Tulia, representing the Head of the EU Delegation to Jordan.
© SESAME 2019: Dignitaries formally inaugurate SESAME's solar energy plant. Cutting the ribbon are (left to right): SESAME Director Khaled Toukan, President of the SESAME Council, Rolf Heuer, and Sirpa Tulia, representing the Head of the EU Delegation to Jordan.