Work on a plant to make solar panels will begin within months in Bahrain with commercial operations set to commence in September, the company launching the project says.
Metals of Bahrain (Meba), whose core business is engineered castings, says it is diversifying with the new venture, which will utilise technology and production machinery from a European company that designs and develops manufacturing lines and equipment for photovoltaic panels.
“The project is named Solar-1, signifying it is the first solar panels manufacturing enterprise in Bahrain,” said Meba development manager Faisal Khalifeh who is the son of the owner and founder of the company Rami Khalifeh.
“The plant will have an initial investment of BD1 million ($2.65 million) and annual capacity to produce 60,000 solar panels that can generate around 15 MW of electricity per year, adequate to power around 200 homes,” Khalifeh told Gulf Industry magazine.
“If demand grows, it will be possible to increase capacity. Right now we just want to get off the ground and start producing,” he added.
The company has not targeted specific customers but as a first step will showcase its product and technology at the Gulf Industry Fair 2016, staged by Hilal Conferences and Exhibitions and scheduled to take place from February 9 to 11 at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The European firm will not have a stake in the company operating the plant, its involvement is restricted to supplying technology, the production line and testing as well as training.
“It will actually be a separate, fully Bahraini-owned company close to our engineered castings plant near the Alba smelter in Aksar,” highlighted Khalifeh.
“Solar-1 will have automatic machines in operation. No official from the production line supplier will be on permanent duty but Solar-1 will always have somebody from the firm to consult with. They have an office in the region, making access convenient.
“They provide very thorough training. They will be coming to Bahrain to install the line and train employees,” he said.
The panels’ dimensions will be approximately 1.6 m long and 96 cm wide.
Where possible, raw materials will be procured in Bahrain or within the Gulf. Solar cells will be sourced from markets including Germany, Italy and Taiwan. Tempered glass, aluminium, soldering material and rubber will most likely be purchased from local manufacturers and suppliers. Ethylene vinyl acetate, a copolymer film which is an essential sealant of photovoltaic solar modules for ensuring reliability and performance, will be sourced from within or outside the Gulf.
Khalifeh underscored the usefulness of the plant as one that will push forward the green agenda and generate jobs for Bahrainis.
“We’re eliminating 20,000 tonnes of carbon per year, the same as taking out 4,400 cars off the road,” he estimated.
“While Bahrain is keen on renewable energy, our plant helps us to move from the aspirational to specifics. Even with the cost, it would be so good for the country to go ahead with this kind of industry. We have so much of sun.”
Khalifeh will visit Spain and Germany next month to have a close look at photovoltaic plants and see how the Bahrain one will look once it is up and running.
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