Abu Dhabi to Keep Investing in Solar Energy Despite Crisis

The country is developing the Masdar High-Tech Manufacturing Cluster Abu Dhabi, a zone that is aimed to attract companies from solar industries and other related industries.

Oil-rich Abu Dhabi said on Jan. 19 it will press ahead with plans to develop solar energy, shrugging off a huge drop in oil prices which is cutting the emirate's revenues. "The current economic situation has no impact on Masdar's intended and planned projects," said Sultan al-Jaber, chief executive of Masdar, the government-owned Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. charged with developing clean energy.

The company's most prestigious project is developing Masdar City in Abu Dhabi -- a $22 billion cluster city that is to have zero carbon emissions.

"We still have an appetite to look for further opportunities," Jaber said on the sidelines of the World Future Energy Summit 2009 in the United Arab Emirates' capital. "We are looking beyond the current economic terms," he said in reference to the global economic crisis which has reduced demand for oil.

The UAE has the world's largest ecological footprint, consuming more natural resources per capita than any other nation, according to a 2008 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Abu Dhabi sits on 90% of the UAE's proven oil reserves, which ranks as the world's fifth largest at 97.8 billion barrels. The UAE is OPEC's third largest oil producer, currently pumping 2.4 million barrels a day. The Gulf state also has over six trillion cubic meters (212 trillion cubic feet) of gas reserves, fourth in the world.

But oil prices have tumbled from a high of $147 per barrel in July to around $40, slashing revenues for oil-producing countries by some two thirds.

Abu Dhabi's ample fossil energy, however, raises questions about the feasibility of its solar projects, but the emirate appears set on harvesting its other abundant natural resource -- year-round sunshine.

"The main purpose is to develop a new economic sector... All our projects are proceeding," Jaber said a day after Abu Dhabi announced plans to produce 7% of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

The 6.5-square-kilometer (2.5-square-mile) Masdar City, which is set for completion in 2015, will house 50,000 people and will be run entirely on renewable energy, mainly solar. It will also house the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which is being developed in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aiming to enhance home-grown research in renewables.

In addition, Masdar has established Abu Dhabi's first hi-tech company, Masdar PV, with an investment of $600 million with a plant in Germany -- a leading country in solar industries, to be followed with a plant in the UAE.

The Erfurt plant will produce amorphous thin film photovoltaic modules of an annual capacity of 210 Mega Watts, the company said.

It is also developing the Masdar High-Tech Manufacturing Cluster Abu Dhabi, an approximately four-square kilometer zone that is aimed to attract companies from solar industries and other related industries.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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