With the shale gas boom dominating energy exploration in the US, the sun-soaked petro kingdoms of the Middle East are looking to solar to ease their own oil addiction and develop a new export business. Masdar subsidiary Masdar PV, for instance, made the thin-film solar panels installed in the Mauritania project at the company’s German manufacturing plant. The Sheikh Zayed Solar Power Plant is the latest renewable energy export from the Middle East. Masdar has built a 6 MW wind farm in the Seychelles, owns a 20% stake in a 630 MW offshore wind project in the United Kingdom, and is building solar thermal power plants in Spain through a joint venture with Spanish engineer company Sener. In March, Masdar’s 100 MW solar power plant, Shams I, went online in Abu Dhabi. Shams I is currently the world’s largest solar thermal power plant. Al Lamki says Masdar is now considering building a 100 MW photovoltaic power plant in Abu Dhabi as well as other solar projects that could power the United Arab Emirates’ energy-intensive desalinization plants that supply the country’s water. Saudi Arabia, the richest of the petro kingdoms, said last year that it is seeking $100 billion in investment to build enough solar power capacity to supply a third of its electricity demand. There is no peak sunshine, but Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves are finite and the kingdom and other Middle East nations would rather sell their petroleum overseas rather than burn it at home.The awareness of renewables is continuing to grow rapidly around the world and the Middle East is taking advantage of their resources in order to become a competitor in the industry. While US developers such as NRG and BrightSource Energy are also targeting the Middle East as the next hot solar market, Masdar is counting on a hometown advantage.
Source: The Middle East’s new energy export: sunshine, by Todd Woody, May 3, 2013