It is easy to think of Masdar as the company who built the Middle East’s sustainable city in the middle of the desert, but the Abu Dhabi company is more than that: it runs a clean technology investment fund with about half a billion dollars, and has also become a major global renewable energy investor. Its latest initiative, another solar energy project in the West African nation of Mauritania, will provide clean energy in seven towns throughout this country of 4 million.
The new solar power plants are a follow-up to Masdar’s installation of a large power plant outside the capital city of Nouakchott two years ago. That project provides 15 megawatts of green power, and at full operation provides up to 10 percent of Mauritania’s electricity needs. This new project now expands solar across the country, with seven cities benefitting from a total of 12 megawatts of solar—enough to displace 6 million liters of diesel fuel and over 16,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Masdar will issue tenders for these projects in the next several weeks and says it promises to include local suppliers and contractors when feasible. Completion of all of the projects is scheduled for the first quarter of 2016. Most of the new plants will be built oversized so they can eventually generate additional capacity if needed. After they launch, the plants will provide about 30 percent of the cities’ electricity needs while reducing the amount of diesel needed during peak demand by 70 percent—reducing pollution while ensuring a more secure delivery of electricity.
This announcement, made during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, follows what had been a busy fall for the company. Masdar is working with the United Arab Emirates’ Pacific Partnership Fund to build new solar power projects in the South Pacific nations of Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands. The company is a player in the wind power sector, too: Masdar is partnering with a utility in Oman to build the first utility-scale wind farm within the Gulf Region, a 50 megawatt project that according to the company will power 16,000 homes. A wind farm in Samoa is also under construction.
Expect more of these projects in the coming months, even with oil sinking well below US$50 per barrel and approaching US$40. Yes, despite all the talk that low oil prices are Saudi Arabia’s ploy to sabotage the global (especially the American) fracking industry, the only thing that can be predicted about oil prices is that they are always volatile. Those prices will rise again, and for far too long many of the world’s poorest countries have been undermined by oil’s costs jumping like a yo-yo. Renewable energy is a path towards energy security for these countries—and its cost is steadily approaching parity with that of fossil fuels. Therefore these projects are an effective way for the United Arab Emirates’ government to conduct foreign aid, and for Masdar to reap profits.
Based in California, Leon Kaye has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. He shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Disclosure: Masdar covered Leon Kaye’s travel costs to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
Image credits: Ji-Elle