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Masdar Plunges $2 Billion into Solar PV Market


The World Business Council for Sustainable Development
June 3, 2008


Masdar today announced it will commit $2 billion to start a global production
line of thin-film solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, with the aim of reaching 1GW
a year by 2014.

Masdar is a company set up by the Abu Dhabi government in January, to invest the
oil-rich country's capital in “future energy”? projects, such as renewables.

In phase one of the $2 billion investment, $600 million will be spent on two
factories; the first, in Erfurt, Germany, will turn out 70MW of solar PV
capacity a year. Ground-breaking is scheduled for early July, with operations
slated to begin in the third quarter of 2009. Masdar expects that this site will
be a “reference plant”?, to be scaled up at a second site in Abu Dhabi. Expected
to come online in the second quarter of 2010, this will have the capacity to
manufacture 140MW of PV systems a year.

The rest of the capital will be invested in adding new production lines to these
facilities and establishing more factories in other parts of the world. Steve
Geiger, Abu Dhabi-based director for special projects, told Environmental
Finance that the initiative is looking at the south-western US and Asia for
possible expansion.

The PV systems built at the factories will “use the latest generation of
equipment capable of high-volume processing of ultra-large glass substrates,
which, at 5.7 square metres, are eight times larger and five times more powerful
than that of the current market leader”?, Masdar said.

Although the company has invested venture capital in solar firms, including
thin-film PV, this is its first direct foray into the business. Geiger said it
was a big step forward for the initiative, as it would be “100% owning and
building and operating”? the business. He added that Masdar hopes to quickly
scale up and drive down the cost of the technology: “[There are] many companies
that are ahead of us. We need to do something special to be competitive and that
something special is being able to apply Abu Dhabi's capital.”?

Masdar chief executive Sultan Al Jaber said: “Thin-film PV is a key part of our
build-deploy-develop strategy to actively build a strong position in alternative
energy. Abu Dhabi is a global energy leader, so it makes sense to engage these
new technologies and become a leader in alternatives.”?

Winfried Hoffman, president of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association,
added: “The entry of such powerful energy leaders into solar is very exciting
and could change the dynamics of the entire industry.”?

 

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