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In an exclusive conversation with SolarQuarter Middle East, Nour Mousa – Managing Director, Desert Technologies introduced us to his company and its major projects. He also spoke about the challenges faced by the company, the impact of covid on the region, and the industry along with their future expansion plans.
Please give a brief introduction about yourself and your Company, desert technologies.
desert technologies (dt) is an independent fully integrated solar PV energy platform with a proven track record as a PV developer, investor, EPC, O&M contractor, and solar PV panel manufacturer & energy storage systems integrator. dt is the first Saudi Arabian company active across the entire value chain of solar energy (development + EPC + manufacturing).
Headquartered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, operating across Africa, the Middle East, and Emerging Asia, desert technologies originated in 2012 bringing together a team of experts with extensive experience in originating, developing, and managing power projects and PV manufacturing operations.
Key customers include globally recognized brands such as Aramco, SABIC, NEOM, Porsche, UNDP, Saudi Electric Company, and many others. desert technologies is bankable as a developer and EPC provider by lenders such as the IFC, Finnfund, FMO, EuropeArabBank, OFID, AIIB, and CDC.
Please give our readers brief insight about the recent major projects done by your company in the Middle East Region.
In the Saudi EPC sector, dt holds one of the largest track records in solar projects, having installed so far more than 200 MWdc between Egypt, Jordan, and the GCC countries. Our historical competency is in ground-mounted utility-scale plants. Back in 2015, we were among the pioneers in the Jordanian solar market (round-1), being awarded two projects: Shamsuna (10 MWdc) and Falcon Ma’an (23 MWdc). EPC was just an aspect of a broader strategy that saw dt acting both as a contractor and a developer, starting with the Falcon Ma’an plant. The same business model was successfully replicated a few years later in Egypt, with ARC (65 MWdc), Arinna (25 MWdc), and Winnergy (25 MWdc) are part of the world’s largest solar development, in Benban.
Following these initiatives, dt has entered the GCC market starting from Saudi Arabia. In its home country, dt has been focusing on medium-sized plants, mainly tackling the C&I sector. Recently we have completed the installation of a 4 MWdc solar plant near Makkah, one of the largest diesel hybrid installations, based on ground-mounted and roof-top solar systems synchronized with diesel generators to power an off-grid manufacturing site. In the last months, we have also delivered a 1 MWdc solar plant at the Saudi Aramco facility in Tabuk and previously we have collaborated with the Saudi Electrical Company and NCB bank installing roof-top and solar car-ports in Jeddah and Riyadh.
Most of our projects in the GCC region were delivered in collaboration with our solar PV manufacturing division. One of the best examples is for sure the Expo 2020 Saudi Pavilion, in Dubai, powered by a limited edition of dt’s panels. In sub-Saharan Africa, dt has also installed 2.5 MWdc solar-diesel hybrid solutions synchronized with to grid in Mozambique utilizing dt panels and finalizing the installation of 10,000 solar street lights in Togo.
As an EPC Contractor, what are the major challenges you face in project execution?
Without any doubt, currently, supply chain crises are the biggest challenge for our category. Since the Covid pandemic, moving goods has become increasingly difficult and disruptions at every level: from the shortage of products to the unpredictability of transportation time and shipping tariffs. The same has also happened with the mobility of people.
However, our Company has proved to be very resilient, because of the network of partners already established in our reference markets. We benefitted from our manufacturing plant, which granted a regular supply of PV modules at a time of global shortage.
How has covid impacted the Solar industry in the Middle East and how has the region tackled this crisis?
We are very positive about the industry. The future is bright, the future is solar.
Despite the supply chain crisis especially for solar panels, we have seen disruptive technological innovations which can dramatically contribute to the competitiveness of the solar sector by significantly lowering the Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of future power plants. KSA and dt can gain leadership if it changes the current paradigm; “reduce the cost of modules” to “reduce the cost of energy”. dt is driving the PV technology roadmap: Setting standards for the next generation Heterojunction technology solar panels for extreme high-temperature environments.
With your presence currently in KSA, Jordan, and Egypt, what are your plans for expanding your services in the region?
dt is committed to maintaining a strong focus of its EPC activity on its historical markets (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt) expanding its presence in the whole GCC region as well and beyond. Building on its track record, dt aims to install over 1.9 GW of solar by 2027, across utility-scale, C&I, EV charging infrastructure, and microgrids.
dt’s EPC division is not an isolated branch, but part of a broader vertically integrated part of dt span across the solar industry supply chain. As our unique expertise enables us to constantly learn and adapt strategies across the value chain to lower the LCOE of our projects and address market gaps.
How do you think the Renewable Energy sector is going to be/perform in the next 5 years in the Middle East?
The Middle East benefits from extremely favorable solar conditions, witnessing record low solar tariffs in the last years. Today incorporating solar energy into your energy mix translates to savings and competitiveness across industries as well as part of a broader strategy for diversifying the economy and national energy security.
Undoubtedly in KSA, a significant share of the new projects will be covered by utility-scale power plants and by deployments in the new mega-developments, such as NEOM. In addition, we see an increasing interest in solar and smart infrastructure powered by the sun among C&I, residential customers, and EV charging infrastructure. At Desert Technologies, we are excited to meet this bright
future… and to help shape it.