Solar Technologies FZE, a Dubai Technopark-based global company, has announced the establishing of the Middle East’s largest photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing facility in Dubai.

In a further sign of the changing face of the energy sector, the announcement was made by Sultan bin Sulayem, Chairman of Dubai World, at the Green Dubai World Forum 2008 held at the Atlantis in the emirate.

The virtual foundation stone laying ceremony of the manufacturing facility was held on 24th October 2008, the inaugural day of the Green Dubai World Forum 2008.

The first phase of the facility will manufacture photovoltaic panels that can annually generate 130 megawatts (MW) of power, with the site set to go into production in the last quarter of 2010. Subsequently, Solar Technologies will establish similar manufacturing plants in China, Mexico and Bulgaria, which will increase the total production capacity to 1 Giga watt by 2015.

Speaking at the inauguration of the manufacturing facility of Solar Technologies, Sultan Bin Sulayem, explained, “Our vision in Dubai is to create an environmental friendly society. Considering the vast areas of dry lands in the UAE, the potential of obtaining energy from the sun is almost inexhaustible. Solar energy will define the future of our country. The setting up of a photo-voltaic panel manufacturing facility is an important step towards securing our future.”

As well as reflecting the changing energy sector, the announced facility is also likely to herald increased industrial and specialty gas demand in the region. Gases used in the solar cell/PV industry is a rapidly growing business, and certainly one that the industrial gas majors are keen to establish a strong position in.

Air Products in September secured another key contract in the field after signing an agreement to provide bulk gases for Schott Solar Inc.’s planned factory in Albuquerque. XsunX meanwhile, signed an agreement with Praxair in May for the supply of bulk industrial gases for its new multi-megawatt thin film photovoltaic (TFPV) solar manufacturing facility, near Portland in Oregon.

Linde Nippon Sanso (LNS), a company of The Linde Group, has also signed an exclusive contract in the PV field, with Malibu GmbH & Co. KG in Bielefeld, Germany. The contract will see the company supply all of the gases needed to make photovoltaic modules and on-site gas and chemical management services.

While growth of around 8% per year until 2010 is expected in traditional semiconductor segments such as microchips and flat panel displays, the annual anticipation for the solar sector lies at around 30%.