Canadian Solar wins in Saudi Arabia

Canadian Solar has won a 1.78MW module order in Saudi Arabia, in a deal that may give the company an inside edge in what is expected to rapidly become the Middle East’s largest solar market.

The order is for the second phase of the ground-mount PV array at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPARC), owned by Saudi Aramco.

The first 3.5MW phase of the KAPARC array was completed earlier this year using 12,000 modules from bankrupt Chinese player Suntech and central inverters from Germany’s SMA Solar.

This summer Phoenix Solar, which acted as system integrator on the first phase, reversed course on its decision to shutter its presence in the Middle East after winning a contract to build the second phase as well.

Canadian Solar, which last year gained a foothold in the Middle Eastern market with an order in Abu Dhabi, will supply modules from its CS6X series to the KAPARC array.

Saudi Aramco is using the KAPARC project as a “determining factor to select and qualify technology partners” for the country’s broader solar roll-out, claims Canadian Solar chief executive Shawn Qu.

The oil-rich country has targeted 16GW of solar capacity by 2032, as it looks for more economic ways to generate electricity at home than burning fossil fuels which are more valuable when exported.

Other PV companies gearing up heavily for the Saudi market include First Solar, which recently hired a Saudi country head, and Solar Frontier, which is partly owned by Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Arabia is predicted to be the largest PV market across the Middle East and Africa by 2017, overtaking earlier movers like South Africa and Israel, according to market researcher NPD Solarbuzz.

The Saudi market is expected to be governed by strict domestic content requirements, prompting some manufacturers, like German inverter maker Kaco New Energy, to contemplate factories in the region.

Qatar Solar, a company backed by the Qatari royal family, is in the process of acquiring a significant minority stake in SolarWorld, as part of the German manufacturer’s controversial rescue package.