First Solar Sees Mideast Renewable Power Accelerating From 2014

First Solar Inc., the largest thin-film panel manufacturer, sees “significant growth” in renewable energy projects being developed in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of 2014.

Solar power projects with planned cumulative capacity of 500 megawatts to 1,000 megawatts will be under development or tendered by governments by then, Ahmed Nada, the Middle East vice president for business development, said today in Dubai. First Solar will seek to win some of those projects, he said.

“Any company of our size would aim to have a substantial market share” of the power plants to be developed, he said.

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are developing renewables to meet the growing energy demands of burgeoning populations and economies. Adding clean-power generators may help oil-rich nations in the region to conserve more of their crude and gas for export.

Saudi Arabia will be the region’s biggest market for solar projects. The kingdom, the world’s largest crude exporter, plans to add 800 megawatts of photovoltaic generation per year over the next two decades, said Matt Merfert, First Solar’s director of projects for the Middle East and Africa.

“Oil exporters have understood the opportunity cost of using fossil fuels to generate subsidized electricity,” Nada said. “Importers see the value in diversifying their energy supplies and being able to reduce purchases of crude oil or refined products, which are often more expensive.”

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, last month started a 100-megawatt power plant using concentrated solar power technology, making it the region’s largest. The emirate is also developing a photovoltaic plant of the same size. Saudi Arabia hasn’t yet tendered plants under its national renewable energy plan and other regional states like Kuwait are studying programs, Nada said.

First Solar is building a 13-megawatt photovoltaic plant in Dubai, the U.A.E.’s second-largest emirate. The plant will be complete by October and produce power at a cost of between 10 cents to 14 cents per kilowatt hour, Merfert said.

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