MASDAR PV abandons plans for UAE solar manufacturing hub

The Government's national clean energy organisation said a lack of local demand for renewable energy was to blame.

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

The news broke on the eve of the World Future Energy Summit (WFES), Abu Dhabi's flagship event which aims to position the Emirate as a global pioneer in clean energy.

In recent days, both Hilary Clinton and US President Obama have officially offered their support to the largest Emirate's plans, together with WFES. Secretary of State Clinton also visited MASDAR 's Institute of Science and Technology.

Frank Wouters, the director of Masdar Power, the energy unit that includes Masdar PV , said yesterday that a domestic solar panel plant was no longer under consideration.

"You need scale and you need a regional market for that to make sense," he said.

With no regional market, the company clearly doesn't see enough potential scale as a result of markets outside of the country to justify an additional manufacturing capability in the UAE. The price of solar modules is dropping as the market becomes oversupplied - a situation exacerbated by a flow of exports coming from subsidised manufacturers in China. The falling prices have affected Masdar PV's foreign operations, including its solar panel factory in Germany, which makes thin-film amorphous silicon panels (famously one of the first customers of the now defunct Applied Materials turnkey production line).

"We have worked extremely hard to increase efficiency," Mr Wouters added, speaking at the launch of the UAE's first solar industry group. He added that the German plant was now operating at a profit after improving efficiency.

"We are selling at competitive prices," said Wouters, who added that its customers were in Canada, Germany, Spain and the relatively unexplored Indian market.

Worldwide, the supply of solar panels is projected to be double global demand this year, a huge market imbalance that will further hit prices and is likely to lead to a consolidation of manufacturers.

Masdar Power is still going ahead with renewable energy projects in Abu Dhabi, including a 20MW-30MW wind farm on Yas Island, for which it is now evaluating construction bids, as well as work on a solar-power plant and plans for a second plant in Abu Dhabi.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Wind power  •  World Future Energy Summit