Qatar’s New Solar Plant Could Produce 6.5 Gigawatts of Power Annually
Could Qatar become a solar giant in the Middle East? The entire region is blanketed in sun, but oil and gas have naturally been on the minds of both locals and multinationals in the region. Oil and gas are finite sources, however, and Qatar is in the early stages of developing a clean energy economy. Let's make that clear: very early stages of non-fossil fuels. Last year Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) committed to building a US$1 billion polysilicon plant in the country's Ras Laffan Industrial City. Slated to open the in late 2013, the goal of QSTed is to compete with the world's leading solar technology companies. According to Dr. Khalid al-Hajri, chairman and CEO of QSTed, the 8000 metric tons of solar modules the plant could produce on an annual basis is enough to generate over 6.5 gigawatts of electricity. Certainly the enthusiasm is contagious, as Qatar could really become a global sustainability leader if the government follows through on its promises to ensure that Qatar becomes a strong knowledge-based economy and not one solely dependent on volatile oil and gas. But before we all crow about the carbon emissions this plant would save, let's take a deep breath: the metallurgical-grade silicon required to make these solar modules will be hauled in from all over the world. Despite Qatar's shift towards more sustainable development, the example of QSTec shows the challenges Qatar faces: this compelling and dynamic thumb of the Gulf, like much of the Middle East, still requires resources to be shipped in from all over the world. Nevertheless the world needs to stop the knee-jerk criticism of Qatar and encourage Doha to keep making these changes. The world depends on Qatar and its neighbors, much more than the rest of us would like to admit.