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Thu 7 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Masdar tests solar power

The renewable energy company plans to test photovoltaic solar cells from 22 manufacturers.

Masdar has launched one of the largest ever field studies of solar panel technology. The firm will contribute renewable energy to Abu Dhabi's local grid for the first time, as a result of the project.

Some 22 manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) cells will be involved in the study, which will monitor how different technologies endure the effects of heat, humidity and sand. The systems will be ranked for performance, durability and cost efficiency in a series of stringent tests over 18 months.

PV is a solar power technology that uses solar cells, either made from silicon or thin film, to convert sunlight directly into electricity.

The project's test facility is located at Masdar City, near Abu Dhabi's international airport. The site houses 26 one-kilowatt at peak PV modules, mounted on aluminum structures. Testing will be carried out in co-operation with Germany's TUV Rheinland, a technical service company with experience in PV system performance and certification.

The electricity generated will be converted into alternating current and fed directly into the local grid, representing the first grid-connected solar power system in Abu Dhabi's history.

"The PV competition shows we are determined to become an influential player in the field of solar PV in particular and renewable energy in general," said Masdar CEO, Sultan Al Jaber. "Few studies of this size and with this level of participation have been undertaken outside the laboratory.

"Our involvement will generate a wealth of original data and strengthen ties with the leading names in the PV industry. It will also position Abu Dhabi as an ideal location for the testing and verification of PV, spanning all crystalline and mature thin film technologies."

Masdar said the test results would help to determine how renewable power will be generated for its planned zero carbon, zero waste city. The firm added that the rising cost of utilities was driving research into PV technology, and the manufacture of PV cells had risen in recent years, especially in Europe, Japan and the US.

According to Masdar, at the end of 2006, the worldwide installed PV capacity was 5.7 GW at peak.

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