Saudi Arabia’s first PV inverter manufacturing line opens to meet local requirements

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Production has begun of Saudi Arabia’s first locally-made solar inverters through a partnership between KACO and local company Advanced Electronics Company (AEC).

The Shams PV inverter is named after the Arabic word for ‘The Sun’ and was launched earlier this month with an event in Riyadh, the Saudi capital where AEC is headquartered. AEC was started under a directive of the Saudi Arabian government in 1988 but is a private sector company.

The partnership with Germany’s KACO new energy inaugurated the production line at the event. The facility has a production capacity of around 1GW, annually, roughly equivalent to 2,000 units, according to AEC, although the Shams inverters will be available in a range of sizes from 20kW to 2MW. The devices will also be branded in green colours to match both the Kingdom’s national flag and to symbolise a “green environment”, AEC said.

Being the first locally produced inverters, Shams will also therefore be the first in the country to comply with local content provisions for renewable energy tenders. KACO and AEC have signed “several agreements” committing the partners to localisation and content transfer.

KACO CEO Ralf Hofmann hailed the deal, calling AEC one of the “regional leaders in design, manufacturing, and repair and maintenance, in the field of electronics”.

“Together, we will support Research and Development in the Kingdom, as well as repairs and maintenance for customers. The local manufacture of PV inverters will certainly prove to be a major advantage,” Hofmann said.

“AEC is proud to launch the first localised PV inverter in Saudi Arabia. Our activities reflect the commitment of the government towards localising advanced energy technologies, which will help to support national strategic objectives such as creating new jobs, the diversification of economic resources, and technology transfer. AEC will add value to the localised Shams PV inverters with our company’s strengths in local manufacturing, testing, commissioning, local support, repair and maintenance,” AEC president and CEO Dr. Ghassan Al-Shibl said.

Al-Shibl went on to say that the local manufacturing presence would help customers by reducing transport and waiting times, as well as lowering project costs.

In the Middle East Solar Industry Association’s (MESIA) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Solar Outlook 2015, Saudi Arabia’s solar potential was highlighted – as well as the relative lack of progress made in the country despite this potential.

However, the country has plans for 10GW of PV over the next 10 years, MESIA said, adding that “2015 is expected to be the year that Saudi finally starting moving ahead [sic] with its ambitious plans”.

Saudia Arabia has “so far been held back from achieving its herculean solar potential due to the lack of political alignment,” MESIA wrote, while expressing a belief that once this alignment is reached, “they too will turn to solar in a big way”. MESIA claimed that Saudia Arabia should have a “rightful place among the biggest markets for solar energy”. Ironically, however, around the same time that report was published in January, research firm IHS halved its five-year outlook forecast for PV deployment in the Kingdom as renewable energy plans were pushed back by the falling price of oil.

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