Desert Technologies plots Saudi manufacturing expansions to capture domestic market

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PV developer and manufacturer Desert Technologies is looking to capture the early phases of the Saudi Arabian market by expanding its manufacturing capacity in the country.

The company, which recently won another 50MW in Egypt, taking its project pipeline to 700MW, hopes to find itself in pole position when the eagerly anticipated Saudi market emerges.

“Our crystalline silicon line can produce about 100MW and we are looking to develop a cell line next year of around 100MW and immediately after we'll go for 200MW,” Nabih Cherradi, CTO, Desert Technologies told PV Tech, “and then depending on the market [in Saudi Arabia] we will go beyond that. Our target is by 2018/19 to have 500MW.”

With PTC’s polysilicon production in the Kingdom ramping up, Cherradi could soon consider adding that to his list of locally sourced material.

“If they can produce the quality we need at the market price of course we will consider it. Our goal is to have everything locally but not at any cost and not at any quality,” he said.

The company also has a 20MW amorphous silicon line that it plans to use for BIPV. It is talking to property developers in the region and potential opportunities.

Cherradi said the company had been looking to develop projects in Saudi but has moved onto other regional territories in the meantime.

“Saudi was our first target but we couldn't keep waiting so we developed other projects and that has enabled us to get experience in the region. Solar is a necessity in the region and Saudi will do solar perhaps after the summer. There is no debate, for sure they will go solar and when they start, it will be huge, they will want gigawatts and they'll be asking for projects to start yesterday,” said Cherradi pointing to the recent competitiveness of tenders in Dubai.

“Also the round two [tender] in Jordan showed the competitiveness of solar PV in the region. Solar, for Saudi Arabia, is a necessity. It’s not an option. It’s only a matter of time. Besides, Saudi Arabia wants through these projects to develop the industry and create jobs.”

The much-hyped Saudi Arabian solar market has been beset by delays. Despite talk of US$109 billion being invested in solar, the country has yet to launch a national procurement plan.

Responsibility had been with the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA.CARE) organisation but state oil firm Saudi Aramco has made more progress recently developing smaller solar installs.

With a new government in place, Cherradi thinks there could be renewed impetus.

“It’s not 100% clear who will have the last word. The minister of finance, for sure will take part of the process and decision, the Aramco might be also in the loop. I am not sure if KA.CARE will remain the only organisation dealing with renewable energies in the Kingdom. The new government is working on this for sure and very actively. The minister for petroleum is very good for renewables in general and extremely good for solar, just read his latest declarations, he is very positive about solar in general and the potential of solar in the Kingdom,” Cherradi added.

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