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.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.