Saudis make Desert Sands into Solar Polysilicon

Susan Kraemer – Green Prophet

Saudi Arabia has lots of open land with sand rich in silicon needed to make polysilicon for the solar industry.

This year, the Kingdom has announced its second polysilicon manufacturing partnership, this time with Germany’s Centrotherm Photovoltaics. A year ago, Saudi Arabia had announced a $1 billion solar joint venture with South Korea that was to have brought the first ever solar factory to Saudi Arabia to make polysilicon, the essential ingredient of traditional solar cells. That Saudi-based joint venture company, Polysilicon Technology Company, was to be in production by 2014. However, a year later, no website, and no further news announcements…

By contrast, the new partnership agreement with Centrotherm – to build a polysilicon plant in Saudi Arabia, has already yielded its own website in the new Saudi-based company name: IDEA Polysilicon Company (IPC).

By selecting Germany’s Centrotherm Photovoltaics – the world’s No #2 maker of solar equipment – the founders of IDEA would seem to have chosen wisely.

The new company will build a $1.06 billion industrial complex in Yanbu.

Funding comes from investors in the Gulf; IDEA International Investment and Development Company, who had put out a request for bids for building the polysilicon factory in 2010.

The project will be the largest manufacturing facility in the Middle East for the production of highly-pure polysilicon (how its made) with a total capacity of up to 10,000 tonnes per year, of which 2500 tonnes will be converted to solar wafers.

With this move, Saudi Arabia is slowly beginning to make some moves towards diversifying out of oil, which is its only real exportable commodity – and towards solar power and sand-based polysilicon, the commodities that it is truly rich in.

And since the Middle East and North Africa are expected to be among the major PV growth regions during next years, its a smart move.

Dubai to Invest $3billion in Solar Farms

Susan Kraemer – Green Prophet 13 Jan 2012

Dubai produces only around 100,000 barrels per day of oil from four existing fields, and is dependent on fossil fuels for electricity production and for water, which must be desalinated. So news that Dubai is planning a gigantic solar farm with a capacity of 1,000 MW (1 GW), would seem like an appropriate response, right?

However, the speed of building the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park – named after the ruler of Dubai – is strikingly at odds with Dubai’s world-famous dispatch in speedy project development. The 1,000 MW solar farm will take till 2030 to complete!

Unlike ambitious Morocco (Could Morocco be First to Get 42% Solar?) and Egypt, which has requested bids to get 2, 700 MW of wind by 2016, and similarly blessed with abundant desert sun, Dubai’s solar will still only play a minor role in the sun-soaked region.

Solar power will supply just 5% of Dubai electricity by 2030.

It will take two years to get the first 1% (10 MW) up and running.  The solar farm will be built and hooked-up in stages, with the first 10 MW hooked-up and shipping power to the grid by the end of 2013. Solar farms can be built very quickly. First Solar completed its solar farm in a few months in California, once the environmental reviews were completed.

Dubai is home to only 2 million people. However, they are some of the most energy-hungry people in the world, being entirely dependent on fossil energy to desalinate all of their water.  Dubai gets only 6% of its income from oil, and what oil it has is expected to be gone by 2020.

In 2010, Dubai consumed around 33,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity and energy demand is expected to increase by 5% annually – without intervention. (However, Dubai has passed some very tough energy-efficiency rules to cut electricity use, like its New Net Zero Building Code.)

The first stage will cost 120 million dirhams, but the entire solar farm will cost a total of $3 billion US dollars.

It is to be initially funded by the kingdom’s Supreme Council of Energy, whose members include various government entities such as the Dubai Supply Authority and Dubai Petroleum Establishment as well as Dubai Aluminum Company (DUBAL) and Emirates National Oil Company.

Then for the financing of the rest of the project, the Supreme Council of Energy was studying several options, like developing a clean energy fund – which would essentially be more of the same ownership; by the kingdom – but also encouraging private partnership, said Nejib Zaafrani, secretary general and chief executive officer of Supreme Energy Council.

Dubai will also import nuclear power from its neighbor Abu Dhabi. Other than the 5% it plans to get from solar, Dubai expects to import 12% of its electricity from nuclear power, get 12% from some sort of “clean coal”, and the rest from natural gas, as part of its relatively modest and slow-moving goal to reduce its current carbon emissions 30% by 2030.