Qatar, Spain sign deal for solar energy research projects

The agreement with the Spanish Research Centre for Energy Environment and Technology (CIEMAT) will see new ground-breaking research developed in Qatar, a statement said.

QEERI, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, has identified solar energy as one of the core research areas to be conducted with CIEMAT, the statement added.

The agreement is part of QEERI’s dedication to help Qatar develop a strong knowledge economy and move away from complete reliance upon fossil fuels, it said.

Dr Rabi H Mohtar, executive director of QEERI, said: "Qatar is blessed with huge solar energy resources, and we must always remember that clean, low-cost energy is critical to the development and sustainability of Qatar’s economy."

He added: "We look forward to this partnership that we are embarking on with CIEMAT and hope to take strides towards a guaranteed supply of clean energy built upon our own local knowledge, research and development, taking Qatar from carbon to creativity".

As the technology becomes more affordable, Qatar and the region are likely to become great consumers of solar energy in the near future.

Despite this, there is currently a heavy reliance upon technology designed abroad, which doesn’t perfectly suit Qatar’s unique environmental combination of high humidity, heat and dust.

"Through this and similar partnerships with local, regional and international partners, we hope to develop the know-how and the human capacity to reduce the reliance on imported technology" said Dr Mohtar.

The MoU between QEERI and CIEMAT is intended to last an initial seven years to study and develop solar technology research capacity for the region.

At current rates of technological advancement, solar energy is expected to be more affordable than other forms of energy within the next 30 years.

In October, Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) said it plans to build a $1bn polysilicon production facility.

QSTec’s plant will manufacture 8,000 MTPY (metric tonnes per year) of high-purity solar grade polysilicon and is scheduled to start operations in the second half of 2013.

The site, chosen with future expansion in mind, is located on 1.2m sq m of land in Ras Laffan Industrial City in the north east of Qatar, the heart of Qatar’s LNG refineries and exports.

By Andy Sambidge,