First Solar names Saudi supremo

First Solar has named Raed Bkayrat its top man in Saudi Arabia, as the US solar giant continues fleshing out its team across the key emerging markets of the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Bkayrat – a Siemens veteran – joins First Solar as vice president of business development for Saudi Arabia from his current role at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, where he created a demonstration and testing programme for solar energy

Saudi Arabia intends to invest more than $100bn to build 41GW of solar capacity over the next two decades.

Bkayrat complements Dubai-based Ahmed Nada, hired earlier this year as vice president of development for the Middle East excluding Saudi Arabia, and Johannesburg-based Johan Cilliers, brought on last December as regional director of business development for sub-Saharan Africa.

All three men report to Christopher Burghardt, vice president of business development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The decision to further expand the development team “is a reflection of the tremendous potential that we see in the [EMEA] region”, says Burghardt, a Belgian-German dual national who, like Nada, is based in the United Arab Emirates.

Last year First Solar established its office in Dubai, where it promptly won a contract to build the first 13MW phase of the emirate’s initial 1GW solar plan.

First Solar has recently taken pains to emphasise that in the US market it will begin diluting its heavy reliance on deploying its thin-film modules at massive volume via its successful project-development arm – instead focusing more on technology and selling modules to a diverse base of customers.

However, the model which has worked so well in the US in recent years still has enormous room for growth in markets like North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, where First Solar acquired the developer Solar Chile.

In March First Solar upgraded its status within the Desertec Industrial Initiative to full shareholder from associated partner, a critical vote of confidence for the DII at a time of uncertainty about its future.