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Foreign investors contribute to Oman solar project

17th Jan 2012

The popularity of solar around the globe continues to gain momentum, with two European firms named as part of the plan to bring 400 megawatts of solar power to Oman.

Swiss private investment fund Terra Nex - along with Germany's Middle East Best Select (MEBS) - will together deliver a US$2 billion integrated project to develop solar technology for the Arab state, including facilities to manufacture solar panels for both domestic applications and exporting trade.

"Oman's stable business environment and pro-environmental policies makes the Sultanate a natural partner to this project," chairman of Terra Nex David Heimhofer said on Sunday (January 15).

"The government's aim to produce 10 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy resources by 2020 is laudable and this project will go a long way in making that vision a reality." 

Mr Heimhofer explained that US$600 million of the overall investment would come from direct equity capital, with the remainder covered by loans from European financial institutions.

According to project partner Sheikh Khalid bin Hilal bin Nasser al Mawali, MEBS has created a private investment fund called Solar Energy-Photovoltaik - with an initial investment of $200 million to finance the first solar power station.

Following the success of government initiatives in Europe, China and the United States, solar power production is currently underutilised in the Middle East, despite the abundance of sunlight - a point expressed by Dr Adel Gastli from Sultan Qaboos University (SQU).

Speaking to the Times of Oman newspaper, the academic claimed that while there is great solar potential in Oman, pilot projects needed to be sped up and future energy needs of the country considered.

"The government should take practical measures towards encouraging stations to generate electricity by means of renewable energy, particularly solar energy," he told the news source (January 11).

Dr Adil highlighted the lack of domestic scientific research into the renewable energy sector and its immense possibilities.

"This sector promises tremendous scope in Oman and the entire Gulf region," he added.

According to the energy researcher, Oman's electricity commission has "adopted several measures to tap the energy potential", with plans to launch six pilot renewable energy projects with capacities of up to eight megawatts - however these initiatives have not yet been

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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