Friday, August 22, 2008

Masdar begins German PV project

Original Article

ABU DHABI // Masdar has broken ground on its first photovoltaic production plant in Germany, which will be followed by another facility in Abu Dhabi by 2010.

The renewable energy company’s plant in Ichtershausen will cost US$230 million (Dh846m) and is scheduled to open by the end of next year.

It will produce new generation photovoltaic modules, known as thin-film PV, a vital element in more cheaply harnessing the energy of the Sun.

“Abu Dhabi’s geography and our vision to become a world leader in renewable energy makes thin-film PV a natural area of focus for Masdar,” said Dr Sultan al Jaber, the company’s chief executive.

“Germany, with its technology, highly-skilled workforce, attractive investment climate, and direct access to the European market makes it an ideal partner for Masdar.”

Thin-film PV has the advantage of using very little specialised material.

While traditional PV modules need large amounts of increasingly expensive solar-grade silicon, thin-film modules involve a piece of glass coated with a much smaller amount of material.

This makes the new modules cheaper to produce – an important factor if solar power is to compete with traditional electricity generation methods.

The modules produced at the plant will be the world’s largest, at 5.7 square metres.

The plant marks the first phase of Masdar’s $2 billion investment into thin-film PV manufacturing.

The German plant will serve as a blueprint for solar technology and knowledge transfer.

Masdar plans to build a second plant, capable of twice the output of the German unit, in Abu Dhabi with initial production to begin by the end of 2010.

Both facilities would serve major photovoltaic system installers in Europe and Masdar’s own energy generation needs, the company said.

Masdar will use PV technology extensively to power its new carbon-free city in Abu Dhabi.

A PV electricity plant will be powerful enough to serve the energy needs of the city’s first buildings, including the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, its first phase due next year.

When the city is fully built by 2016, homes will have PV panels on their roofs to satisfy their own energy needs and export some electricity to the grid.

In Europe, investment in solar power and other renewable energy solutions is on the increase, aided by government incentives.

The continent is home to the world’s largest PV solar park in Jumila, Spain, which is responsible for carbon dioxide savings of 42,000 tonnes a year.

A solar park in Amareleja, Portugal, will reach an output capable of powering 30,000 homes later this year.

The UAE is one of Germany’s major trading partners in the Gulf region, with non-oil trade worth nearly $7bn.

The Ichtershausen plant furthers Masdar’s existing investment and research ties with German companies and organisations including Siemens, RWTH Aachen University and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

“It is especially satisfying to be working together in bringing the world one step closer to a future of clean energy,” said Dr Jaber.

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