The Middle East’s the largest polysilicon production facility is in the final stages of construction and is currently getting ready to reshape the region’s solar energy industry when the first large polysilicon plant rolls out later this year.
Located in the north of Qatar in Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLIC), the Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) facility will run two polysilicon trains with a capacity to produce 8,000 metric tons per year of high grade polysilicon – the key ingredient used in over 90% of the world’s solar modules.
Safety is a top priority on the site with 93% of the facility construction completed and over 31 million man-hours of construction without a single lost time incident. Over 3,000 kilometres of electrical cable is installed at QSTec in addition to a network of pipes that is over 200kms long. Construction utilised 15,000 metric tons of steel and 100,000 cubic metres of concrete. QSTec has 1.2 million square metres of land in RLIC which will allow for future expansion along the solar value chain to ultimately produce high quality solar modules and technologies in Qatar.
“We are gearing up to move the plant from construction stage into the production phase. This phase of the project is a very proud moment for all involved as we witness this enormously complex manufacturing facility come to life and see QSTec’s polysilicon transformed by our partners into solar modules and technologies for use throughout the world,” explained Dr Khalid K. Al-Hajri, the Chairman and CEO of QSTec.
The Ras Laffan facility is home to QSTec’s largest solar installation project, already installed which generates 1.1 megawatts of solar energy. The solar farm provides energy to QSTec’s administration buildings and is just one of many sustainable technology solutions utilised in this state of the art plant.
“In line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 we are producing solar technologies and solutions locally and exporting products and knowledge globally. QSTec and its partners are bringing additional research opportunities across the value chain of the industry to Qatar and we are committed to using research as our guiding force. The strong solar R&D base that has been developed in Qatar by Qatar Foundation, QEERI, QSTP and others already offer a great many opportunities for QSTec” he added.
While the polysilicon plant has been under construction, QSTec has steadily been expanding its presence within the global solar industry. QSTec’s strategic investments in the world renowned German solar companies by acquiring 29% shares and being the largest signal shareholder in Solar World and acquiring 50% shares equity in Centrotherm, enable QSTec to provide solar technology solutions to an array of local, regional and international customers. SolarWorld is Europe and the USA’s largest manufacturer of high quality solar modules and exports its products across the world. Centrotherm is the world’s leading supplier of manufacturing equipment and technology for the solar and semiconductor industries. These key partnerships along with its multiple MOU’s and cooperative agreements with companies and research institutes locally and internationally have turned QSTec into a global solar powerhouse.
“QSTec has a vision to become a world leader in integrated solar solutions, from research and manufacturing to supply-chain and investments, and is prepared to harness the full potential of solar for the benefit and prosperity of all,” asserted Dr Al-Hajri. “QSTec will continue with its expansion strategy locally and internationally by increasing its solar industry development within the technology and manufacturing sectors and we value cooperative participation with others for its achievement.”
QSTec is a joint venture with Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, SolarWorld AG and the Qatar Development Bank and as such education is a key mandate for the organisation. To address this need it created Shams Generation – a hands-on solar learning program that is currently running across 20 schools in Qatar.
“We are extremely proud of QSTec’s Shams Generation program,” said Dr Al Hajri. “We have to educate these young minds about solar energy, the environment and how to be more sustainable and Shams Generation is addressing this need. We have grown from 4 schools and 2,500 students last year to over 20 schools and 7,000 students this year.” he added.
QSTec’s capital investment in its polysilicon plant, SolarWorld and Centrotherm stakes are valued at over $1.3 billion and will have a remarkable impact on the region’s growing solar industry. Dr. AlHajri sees this as an opportunity for the solar industries’ key players to share best practices and benefit from each other to benefit the GCC solar industry.
“In the GCC the solar industry is still in its infancy so it is critical for the industries’ development that there is strong cooperation and support between the producers and governments for promoting the development of the renewable energy industry,” said Dr Al Hajri. “QSTec will welcome and extend all possible support to key GCC players and offer QSTec’s leading integrated solar company position to offer upstream and downstream solutions along the solar manufacturing sector. I would like to express our appreciation to our shareholders and lenders for their extended support of QSTec.” he added.
QSTec’s polysilicon facility opening aligns with a forecasted high demand for polysilicon which will see a shortage on the world markets of the product from 2017. The Paris COP 21 outcomes last year that will lead to a reduction of greenhouse gases have been a boon for the renewable energy sector. The forecasted growth of 20% per annum for the solar industry is also good news for module manufacturer SolarWorld, who is targeting revenues in 2016 of Euro 1billion, and for solar equipment manufacturer Centrotherm who has reported solar equipment orders of Euro 40 million in the first two months of 2016.