First Solar to help power UAE "green" city

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi’s Masdar said on Thursday it is building the Middle East’s largest solar power plant for the carbon-neutral Masdar City.

A model of an upcoming project shows a conference centre (C) that is suspended from the ceiling at the Masdar exhibit during the Cityscape exhibition in Abu Dhabi May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

Half of the 10 megawatt photovoltaic plant’s solar panels will be supplied by First Solar Inc, the U.S.-based company said in a statement. Its shares rose 6.5 percent following the announcement.

The $22 billion Masdar City -- the green city in the desert -- will be home to 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. No cars will be allowed.

First Solar’s thin film solar panels are cheaper to produce, but generate less electricity, than traditional silicon-based solar panels. The remaining 5 MW of Masdar’s solar power plant will be built from crystalline silicon panels. The supplier is yet to be named.

“While a 5 MW order is small within the context of First Solar, the high profile, ‘marquee’ nature of this particular project gives it added significance,” Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said in a client note.

The $50 million solar plant will begin producing power in 2009 and will supply any excess energy to the Abu Dhabi power grid, Masdar said.

The plant is expected to reduce emissions of 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Masdar was set up by the Abu Dhabi government to develop sustainable and clean energy. It is 100 percent owned by the Abu Dhabi government through the Mubadala Development Company.

Abu Dhabi-based Enviromena Power Systems designed the plant and is installing it.

First Solar shares were up $6.62, or 5 percent, at $140 in afternoon trade on the Nasdaq. The stock hit a high of $142 earlier in the session.

(Additional reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles)

Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; editing by William Hardy and Gunna Dickson