The Region’s Most Abundant Resource? It’s Not Underground

The Region’s Most Abundant Resource? It’s Not Underground

August 28, 2013 at 01:08pm

While the Middle East is widely known for its large hydrocarbon reserves, there’s no doubt that its most abundant resource is sunlight. In the past two years, more and more countries in the region are looking to tap into this resource. This map from the Clean Energy Business Council gives a nice visual overview of the current state of solar power generation in the region.

What’s more, solar power here is growing quickly. The International Renewable Energy Agency reported recently that solar power generation grew at an annual average rate of 112% between 2008-2011, and it expects growth to continue at the same pace for years to come.

Of course, solar power faces challenges in this region that are of less concern elsewhere. Extremely high summer temperatures, blowing dust and sand, and high humidity all reduce performance. Yet, the opportunities are huge, exemplified by US-based PV manufacturer, First Solar, moving its Director of Projects for Middle East and African markets to Dubai earlier this year.

In an interview with a Wired magazine blog shortly after his move, Matthew Merfert said that both oil exporters and oil importers in the region have compelling incentives to further expand into solar.

First Solar is a strategic partner to GE, with the two having recently announced a technology partnership to advance thin-film solar cells and modules. First Solar acquired GE’s global cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar intellectual property portfolio, while GE received 1.75 million shares of First Solar common stock in the transaction.

The combination of the two companies’ technologies and First Solar’s existing manufacturing capabilities are expected to accelerate the development of cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar module performance and improve efficiency at manufacturing scale. As Matthew Merfert said in the Wired interview, CdTe yields more energy at higher temperatures than other technologies – a clear advantage in this region, where summer temperatures can reach 50-plus degrees Celsius.

First Solar will continue to purchaseuse inverters from GE’s Energy Management business for use in First Solar’sits global solar deployments to optimize electrical balance of plant.

As part of the deal, GE will enhance its presence in solar through access to purchasing and branding First Solar’s modules for future global GE deployments, in addition to its investment in inverters, controls, balance of plant and ownership of utility scale systems.

Some specific outcomes expected from the collaboration include improved solar grid integration, more competitive cost structures and a roadmap for combined electrical equipment.

For more on GE’s solutions for utility-scale solar, click here.

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