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The Middle East Turns Towards Solar Energy

In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, plans are underway to build the Middle East's largest solar power plant of its kind: the Shams 1 Solar Project, a 100-megawatt, concentrated solar power plant capable of powering 20,000 homes.

According to The Associated Press, Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the UAE's Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change and the chief executive officer of government-funded Masdar, said:

"We are not like many other countries today that are in desperate need for complimentary sources of power... We are looking at it from strategic point of view ... we want to become a technology player, rather than an energy player."

Until now, solar was not an ideal source of power in the Middle East, costing roughly three times that of heavily-subsidized fossil fuels. Thanks to recent advancements in technology, however, that's dramatically changed. Oil-rich nations are turning to renewables to meet growing demands of power to fuel economic growth in their countries. Not to mention, they get more revenue from that oil if it's exported rather than used domestically.

"We are in the middle of a radical rethinking of the energy future of the region," Adnan Z. Amin, director general of the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency, told The Associated Press. "One of the real wake up calls for Saudi Arabia, which is a heavily hydrocarbon country, is that they are seeing their current energy demand growing at such a high rate that they risk becoming a net energy importer in 20 years. That would be a major economic issue to deal with."

Other countries like Egypt, Qatar, Algeria, Saudi Arabia Kuwait have also set aggressive goals to produce a significant percent of their energy from renewables over the next decade. Under Qatar Science & Technology Park, GreenGulf Inc. and Chevron Qatar, a 35,000-square-meter facility is being used to test various types of solar to see what will work best for the region. Factors such as dust, heat and humidity will help determine which materials will produce the most efficient outcomes for desert areas like Qatar.

"We are one of the biggest believers in solar," Abdullah Bin Hamad al-Attiyah, a former Qatari oil minister and president of the UN Climate talks, told reporters. "We have technical problems with solar but I'm a big believer that technology will solve it."

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