First Solar hires ex-GE man for Middle East

First Solar has hired General Electric veteran Ahmed Nada as vice president for business development in the Middle East, as global solar leaders continue jockeying for position in what is shaping up as a huge – but tricky – emerging market.

Nada, based in Dubai, and who served most recently as regional general manager of GE Oil & Gas Global Services, will report to Christopher Burghardt, First Solar’s vice president of business development for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

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 is setting up a separate, stand-alone office in Saudi Arabia, which Nada will not oversee.

“The Middle East is just beginning to tap its immense potential [for] solar-power generation … [and] utility-scale solar offers a compelling solution to the region’s growing energy needs,” says Burghardt.

First Solar continues to expand aggressively into emerging utility-scale solar markets, where its market position has been bolstered in some cases by non-recourse funding from US Exim Bank. The company has led the push into downstream development among major module manufacturers.

Over the past two months the thin-film giant hired Johan Cilliers as its Cape Town-based business development director for sub-Saharan Africa, and Tim Rebhorn, a nuclear industry veteran, to oversee its global project development execution.

Last month First Solar announced it was acquiring Santiago-based developer Solar Chile, which owns the rights to 1.5GW of early- to mid-stage projects in northern Chile.

It continues to play a major role in the Indian market, with the developer Azure Power last week commissioning a 35MW National Solar Mission plant in Rajasthan using First Solar panels.