Qatar seeks a place in the sun
Remmember yesterdays news about buses and taxi's becoming green using batteries and LPG as fuel ? or the other one which is currentlly is going on about Qatar Airways using natural gas aganist Jet fuel ? which is much cleaner ? now we are going even greener !!
QATAR aims to be a major player in the global solar energy industry by starting with making the much sought-after raw material for solar cells and subsequently entering the downstream segment, Gulf Times has learnt.
“We have been doing a lot of scouting and have found ways to enter the market under a fast-track project and become key player in five to six years,” Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) chairman Tidu Maini revealed in an interview.
The first step is to establish a chemical plant to make the feedstock for solar cells, the polycrystalline material, which is a very tightly held industry with only seven or eight major suppliers in the world.
“We have located some technology providers other than these big players, got a plan, did detailed studies and I believe we are in a position to have the plant ready by 2010,” the official explained.
Once Qatar begins to make the polycrystalline material, for which there is a shortage worldwide for the next five to seven years as of now, the next step would be to buy companies downstream.
“These are manufacturers of solar cells, batteries and system integrators, who could be here or in the Third World countries where labour is cheap, and then enter the market as a player,” he observed.
Qatar would also pursue using solar energy for desalination, on which the country is dependent for its water and electricity generation, rather than using oil and gas for the process.
“We are funding a lot of work on solar thermal (technology for harnessing solar energy for heat) as well,” Maini said while stating that the QSTP has funded a small project, ‘The Solar Furnace’, at Texas A&M University at Qatar, to build a demonstrator.
The QSTP chairman, who was most recently pro-rector of Imperial College London responsible for matters including technology transfer, pointed out that what Qatar intended to do was not too dissimilar to what the Masdar Initiative had been doing in Abu Dhabi.
“They have a solar plant and are coming from downstream by buying companies who already manufacture solar cells whereas we have decided to go to the other extreme,” he observed.
Maini, currently also holding a non-executive board position at the Imperial College Abu Dhabi Diabetes Clinic, describes himself as having the fortune of knowing Abu Dhabi, closely track the programme and know the pros and cons of it.
Though the plant to make the polycrystalline material is expensive and energy intensive, the official said it is very profitable and the entire factory could be paid off in five years.
“One of the components of the plan is to dedicate a certain proportion of the revenue to research and development,” Maini said while pointing out that money spent on research is vital for any company to continue to flourish.
The QSTP chairman added that solar was the only viable source for Qatar as alternative energy, as against bio fuels or nuclear energy.
Work is fast progressing on the QSTP facility, part of Qatar Foundation’s Education City, and is expected to open late this year or early next year.
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