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Masdar aims to boost renewable investments after London Array success

By Ed King

Masdar chief Sultan Al Jaber says he is keen to expand global operations after the successful launch of the world’s largest offshore windfarm, which the clean energy giant helped fund.

The United Arab Emirates-based clean energy giant owns 20% of the 175-turbine London Array, which cost £2.2billion to build and is based 20km off the UK coast.

Speaking at the launch, Al Jaber said Masdar was “exploring further investment opportunities”, indicating to reporters that it could support the second phase of the Array, which will boost its capacity from 630 to 1000 mega-watts.

Masdar recently opened the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, the 100MW Shams 1, next to its Abu Dhabi headquarters, where it is also developing a zero-carbon, zero-waste city.

The London Array boasts 175 turbines which have a total capacity of 630MW – enough to power nearly half a million homes a year

Backed by the UAE state, the organisation reportedly has $1.7 billion invested in clean energy worldwide.

Other overseas projects include an eight turbine 6MW farm in the Seychelles, a 15MW solar plant in Mauritania, and a $1 billion deal with the UK Green Investment Bank to back low carbon innovations.

Masdar Director of Sustainability Nawal Al Hosany described the London Array as “phenomenal” and a “milestone for offshore wind”, and said Masdar was open to future projects where there is clear government support.

“We see when there is a need and a demand, selecting opportunities which have the right environmental and climatic conditions for renewable energy, and the political leadership that supports this project,” she told RTCC.

Pledging to see the London Array project “all the way through”, Al Hosany said there is now a strong economic case for Masdar to increase investments in clean energy around the world.

Despite the recent collapse of Desertec, she said Africa is increasingly attractive to investors, given favourable policy reforms and untapped supplies of wind, geothermal and solar energy.

“Masdar is a profitable organisation and when we invest we have shareholders who look at the return on their investments, so we are a big believer that there is an economic case for investing in renewables,” she said.

“That’s why you can see investment in renewables has increased globally – the largest in all energy sectors – and that shows the viability of this project. It is context related and there are many variables that play a role in how much of an investment, but we believe there is an opportunity and a huge gap in the market.”

Qatar’s hosting of the 2012 UN climate talks and indications from Saudi Arabia that it is keen to move from a hydrocarbon based economy have led some analysts to talk of a green energy revolution in the Middle East.

That may be premature – according to the International Energy Agency the UAE is the fifth largest oil exporter on the planet. Abu Dhabi alone boasts 100 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves.

But Al Hosany argues that the country is fast developing a reputation as the world’s leading developer of renewable energy technologies, which she says demonstrates the UAE’s desire to develop a commercially viable energy mix.

“You develop the skills, the knowledge, the know-how, and your expertise becomes more rounded,” she said.

“Masdar is very proud that our expertise in developing these projects is not only specific to the UAE and not only to certain technologies but we have shown leadership in solar power through Gemasolar, VALLE 1 and 2, and SHAMS 1.

“We have been building PV in UAE and abroad – our team and expertise has positioned us in a unique position.”

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