Qatar at the forefront of the MENA solar energy complex

by  — 26 October 2014

Following the unveiling in June by Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) – a private initiative supported by the Qatar government – of a new, vertically-integrated solar panel manufacturing and research facility located in Doha’s New Industrial Area, the firm has signed a landmark agreement with Kazakhstan-based energy company, Kazatomprom, which will supply QSE with raw materials used in the production of solar panels.

A new deal between Qatar and Kazakhstan could mean that the former becomes the top solar energy power producer in the region. (Image Reuters/Arabian Eye).

This partnership allows QSE to secure the entire value chain from raw material to smart-grid development and provides a powerful foundation from which QSE will further expand its production capacity to 2.5 gigawatts (GW),” says QSE chief executive officer Salim Abbassi.

Under the agreement, Kazatomprom will supply QSE with solar grade silicon, the raw material used to make solar panels, at a competitive fixed cost for the next 10 years, securing Qatar’s position at the forefront of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) solar energy market, given that demand for raw polysilicon is projected to increase exponentially, in line with the global move towards utilising more renewable energy as part of the global energy mix. 

Kazatomprom itself – the world’s largest producer of uranium – has been active in the renewable energy sector since 2009, boasting a number of high-tech innovative projects in the field, including the production of photovoltaic modules (Astana Solar), production of ingots, wafers and cells (Kazakhstan Solar Silicon), and solar grade silicon production (Kaz Silicon).

According to Abbassi, the solar grade silicon from Kazatomprom will allow QSE to lower costs and increase efficiency in its panels, which are capable of generating as much as 300 megawatts (MW) of energy annually, the largest in the MENA region.

This will put QSE in an optimal position to eventually reach capacity of 2.5 GW, which would make Qatar one of the largest individual state producers of solar power in the world, as the total combined capacity of production in Europe and the United States currently stands at 3.4 GW.

As an adjunct to this agreement, QSE and Kazatomprom have also committed to deepening their business relationship through knowledge sharing and training, to which effect this September will see the first delegation of Kazatomprom engineers travelling to QSE headquarters in Qatar.

A broader sign of the increasing importance with which the development of the solar energy sector is regarded in Qatar came in the news that Qatar Foundation (QF) has launched the Gulf region’s first Energy Monitoring Centre (EMC) to manage its smart grid and monitor solar power generation across all sites within Education City.

In fact, QF is now responsible for up to 85 percent of Qatar’s solar photovoltaic (PV) current installed capacity of roughly four megawatts (MW), and it is also the first commercial PV project in Qatar approved for grid connection from Kahramaa.

“The advanced EMC, which is one of the first-of-its-kind in the region, marks the integration and centralisation of Qatar Foundation’s ongoing efforts to remain at the forefront of energy efficiency through the adoption of a smart solar system,” says Jassim Telefat, Group Executive Director of QF Capital Projects and Facilities Management, in Doha.

The EMC is part of the recently completed Solar Smart-Grid Project that added a total of 1.68MW of new PV systems at various facilities within the QF campus, which, in itself, will have almost eight MW solar energy installations in the future, making it the largest renewable energy producer in Qatar.

With the PV systems at QF generating 5180 megawatt hours of clean energy annually, savings of around 2590 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year are generated, according to Ibrahim Al Haidos, project manager Solar Smart Grid, QF, adding, “The energy produced through the grid offset annual electricity usage of 471 Qatari houses, so its carbon emission saving is equivalent to conserving 6023 barrels of oil annually or growing 66,410 tree seedlings for 10 years.”

More generally, EMC will be the first of its kind energy monitoring system in the Gulf, allowing real-time monitoring at 15 centres at QF and – having been developed by GreenGulf, in partnership with QF Capital Projects and ASTAD Project Management – it will enable real-time administration of all solar and power quality monitoring systems from a central location aiding in their efficient operations and maintenance.

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