Here’s a way to draw in cleantech financing in a global credit crunch: find a country, or an emirate, that’s spending lots of oil money on clean power projects. Thin-film solar darling First Solar, said today that it’s selling 5 megawatts (MW) of solar panels to Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s planned $20 billion project that’s being touted as the world’s first zero carbon and zero waste city, to be completely powered by renewable energy.
Financial terms of First Solar’s contract with Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s cleantech development arm, were not disclosed, but the Arizona-based company is selling the city just half of the panels that will make up a larger 10 MW solar power plant. The rest of the panels will be provided by a yet-to-be-named traditional crystalline solar panel provider. Compared to First Solar’s deals with SolarCity and juwi solar, the project is small peanuts in terms of size, but it will be high profile. Eventually it will power the Masdar Institute, a university being developed by Masdar with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which aims to position Masdar City as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East — with a strong focus on renewable energy.
Construction has already started on the solar power plant, which is expected to be up and running by the end of the second quarter of this year.
Masdar isn’t just financing projects locally, it’s setting up its own solar photovoltaic manufacturing company in Germany, and it has already made a number of investments in other technologies, including taking a 20 percent stake in the UK’s London Array offshore wind farm.
The economic woes that are affecting companies and projects around the world don’t seem to be slowing things down at Masdar. The days of dependable and relatively cheap oil may be numbered, but the group has plenty of money to spend today, and it is likely to be the source of a lot of financing for cleantech companies for years to come.