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Another Masdar setback

Another Masdar setback

As Masdar shelves plans for its solar-panel-manufacturing unit, Kipp can’t help wondering if the latest developments are an omen of things to come…

January 11, 2011 4:28 by

Poor Masdar; the city of the future began in such a flurry of excitement, promise, and massive potential. But then, slowly, it lost momentum, and it’s been on a downward slope ever since. It has reached the point where Kipp is ready to say Masdar might just be the Lindsay Lohan of green projects, or the Nakheel of the renewable energy world.

A couple of months back Kipp reported that the ambitious carbon-free, environmentally friendly city had pushed its deadline back by four years to 2020, with a few saying it was very possible the project might even take until 2025. To add insult to injury, the postponement came along with news that not only was the project going to be scaled down but it was no longer going to rely solely on on-site clean energy sources—the very thing that separated Masdar City from other such green projects. “100 percent Carbon Neutral” was the particular phrase Masdar used to describe itself, if Kipp remembers rightly. In an email statement the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company said that it still aims to be eventually powered 100 percent by renewable energy.

Then this week, Masdar said it has decided to shelve plans to produce solar panels in the country because of a lack of local demand. Initially the plan was to begin construction of a solar-panel manufacturing plant in Taweelah by the end of 2009; plans that were temporarily put on hold due to a saturation of the renewable energy market. This time however, that lack of local demand was the reason Masdar gave for its decision to scrap their solar-panel producing unit in the UAE altogether. Frank Wouters, the director of Masdar Power, the energy unit that includes Masdar PV , told The National, “You need scale and you need a regional market for that to make sense.”

Maybe Kipp is speaking to quickly to cast this new development in the same light as Masdar’s other alterations, however. The National says that the worldwide supply of solar panels is estimated to be double global demand (who knew so many manufacturers were producing solar panels?). And apparently Masdar’s solar-panel manufacturing unit, Masdar PV, has a solar panel factory in Germany that has been negatively affected by the falling price of panels.

Despite its setbacks, Masdar is still championing some major green ambition. For one thing it says it has plans to build a 20 to 30 megawatt wind farm on Yas Island, its own a solar-power plant and quite possibly a second.

What do you think? Do you think Masdar City will ever achieve its promise? Or do you think it is headed the Lindsey Lohan way (a slow and very public slide to disappointment)?

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