First Solar was initially a shareholder in the Shams Ma’an project, helping with upfront development work after obtaining a 20-year PPA with Jordan’s National Electric Power Company (NEPCO).
The Arizona-based company later sold its stake in Shams Ma'an but stayed on as module supplier and EPC contractor, investing substantial time and resources training local workers to build solar plants.
Shams Ma’an – with 600,000 First Solar Series 4 panels installed on single-axis trackers – was built almost entirely by a Jordanian workforce, with First Solar claiming it spent more than 40,000 man hours on local training.
The project is owned today by a consortium of investors including Diamond Generating Europe, Nebras Power, and the Kawar Group, the latter led by Karim Kawar, Jordan's former ambassador to the US.
“Shams Ma’an has facilitated the transfer of several gigawatts of First Solar’s knowledge and experience to Jordan,” says Raed Bkayrat, First Solar’s vice president of business development for the Middle East.
“Our hope is that the skills acquired through this project will further enable Jordan’s solar energy ambitions.”
First Solar previously supplied and built a 13MW PV plant in Dubai, and earlier this year won the 200MW module-supply order for the second phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum project in Dubai, being built by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power with completion expected in 2017.
First Solar was an early-mover into the still-nascent Middle Eastern solar market, but the company has recently indicated it would pull back from development and EPC work in many emerging markets, preferring instead to sell modules and other components.
The degree to which First Solar has given up on its downstream ambitions in the Middle East is not clear, although the company has said it intends to focus most of its development and EPC activities on more mature solar markets, including the US, Japan and Australia.
The Shams Ma’an project, built as part of the Ma’an Development cluster in southern Jordan, now accounts for 1% of the country’s installed power-generation capacity.