One of the main challenges hindering expansion of Qatar’s solar energy sector is the build-up of dust on the panels and the need for them to be constantly cleaned, a leading energy official has said.
“We are one of the biggest believers in solar,” Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah, a former energy minister who is chairman of Qatar Electricity & Water Company told reporters at a press conference in Doha.
“We have some technology problems. I am a big believer that technology will solve it… We are receiving a lot of dust from the frontier areas, and the dust is one of the challenges. It reduces sharply the efficiency of solar,” he was quoted as saying by the Bloomberg News agency.
The country is hoping that solar energy will account for a fifth of its energy usage by 2030 and government-backed plans are aiming to start production next year.
"The polysilicon produced in Qatar by Qatar Solar Technologies will enable solar energy companies and organisations around the globe to produce products that reduce greenhouse gases, protect the environment and provide the clean renewable energy that makes such a positive impact on so many people across the world,” said Dr Khalid Al-Hajri, board member and chief executive officer of Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec).
QSTec aims to tap into this polysilicon market and for this reason the company was set up by the Qatar Foundation (QF) in March 2010. QF is a 70 percent shareholder and the remaining 30 percent consists of German solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld and the Qatar Development Bank.
Last year, Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec), a joint venture set up in 2010 by Qatar Foundation (QF) and German solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld, announced plans to build a US$1bn polysilicon production facility.
Polysilicon is described as “the building block of the solar energy industry” and it helps to harness solar power by being converted into wafers, cells and the solar modules and panels that produce solar energy.
The QSTec plant will manufacture 8,000 MTPY (metric tonnes per year) of high-purity solar grade polysilicon and is scheduled to start production next year.
The site, chosen with future expansion in mind, is located on 1.2m square metres of land in Ras Laffan Industrial City in the north east of Qatar, the heart of Qatar's liquefied natural gas (LNG) refineries and exports.
This summer, QSTec finalised the financing for the plant when it signed a deal with lender Masraf Al Rayan.
The problem of dust on solar panels is a Gulf-wide issue and was raised by Abdulla Al Zamil, CEO of Zamil Industrial Investment Company, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest companies.
“I bet you didn't know that Saudi Arabia is actually not an ideal location for solar energy - it's too dusty and requires constant cleaning,” Al Zamil said at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai.
However, Al Zamil said the kingdom's authorities have located a specific belt in the country where solar energy can be maximised. Zamil added solar could help during peak daylight hours, when the electricity burden - around 70 percent of domestic energy demand comes from air conditioning - can fill in the gap.