Solar energy panels sales set to shine bright

The falling cost of photovoltaic technology will boost sales of solar panels as households harness the power of the sun to reduce their electricity costs, according to the head of Masdar’s power division.

Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable-energy company, is preparing its pitch for its second major solar project – the 100 megawatt Noor-1 PV plant – to the Executive Council. The company has an interest in photovoltaic (PV) panel manufacture through its ownership of Masdar PV, a German company that will supply half the panels used in the Abu Dhabi plant.

The biggest boost to business for panel producers may not come from utility-scale solar parks but from consumers who take advantage of falling PV prices, which have made solar power competitive with traditional electricity coming from the grid.

"The major growth in the next decade will be closer to end users – so panels on the roof – because that’s where you have the grid parity mechanism, which will be the main driver," said Frank Wouters, head of Masdar Power.

PV producers are suffering from a huge oversupply of the technology, which has caused prices to tumble and several pioneering firms to go out of business.

Company’s have further suffered from the reduction of subsidies for renewable energy. In Europe, the worsening economic outlook has prompted countries such as Germany to curb so called "feed-in tariffs", which rewarded small-scale producers with generous rates for the solar electricity they would feed into the grid.

While the drop in panel prices, driven by the entry of China into PV manufacturing, is hurting established producers, it also provides a lifeline, as feed-in tariffs are no longer needed to make solar power attractive to households in Germany, said Mr Wouters.

Masdar also sees a future for PV solar in large-scale applications. Companies bidding for Noor-1 were hoping to see a contract awarded within the first half of this year. After a longer than expected process, the Executive Council is now set to decide on the project.

"We are doing the work to present it to the Government for final approval anytime soon," said Mr Wouters.

As Abu Dhabi is committed to generate 7 per cent of its electricity by 2020, further PV solar parks are inevitable and companies are already readying themselves for a tender for Noor 2. Shams 1, a 100-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, is due to start operations near Liwa soon .

Masdar is also eyeing Saudi Arabia’s solar plans. The kingdom this year announced plans to generate a third of its electricity from solar power by 2032.

This huge push into renewable energy could open up investment opportunities for Masdar, said Mr Wouters.