The first to be established will be in Erfurt, Germany, that will be operational by the third quarter of 2009, and the second in Abu Dhabi will begin production by the second quarter of 2010.
The German site was chosen for the launch plant as Germany is currently at the center of the global PV industry. The Erfurt plant will provide a reference base for technology and knowledge transfer by a joint German/Abu Dhabi team to the larger Abu Dhabi plant.
The two plants will have a combined annual production capacity of 210 megawatts (MW) that will go to major PV system installers in Europe and to Masdar's domestic generation requirements.
The third phase of the project has a target of 1,000 MW of annual production by 2014. This will be achieved by expanding the first two plants' capacities and building plants internationally to enable Masdar to become a global leader in the thin-film PV market.
This will form part of Masdar's total strategy to make Abu Dhabi into a developer and exporter of technology as opposed to being reliant on imports.
Masdar CEO Sultan Al Jaber said thin-film PV is a part of the group's build-deploy-develop strategy to build a strong position in alternative energy. He said the investment in PV solar energy would complement Abu Dhabi's energy market. As Abu Dhabi is a global energy leader it made sense to engage these new energy technologies to maintain leadership and become a global energy hub, he said.
"This marks a major milestone for Masdar and Abu Dhabi. It will not only establish Masdar as a major global PV player but will be the first high-tech semiconductor nano-manufacturing facility of its kind in the entire region positioning Abu Dhabi as a developer and producer of clean technology," Al Jaber said.
Masdar's plants will utilize state-of-the-art equipment capable of processing high volumes of ultra-large glass substrates. With an area of 5.7 square meters, these products are eight times larger and five times more powerful than those currently in the market.
The manufacture of high-volume thin-film PV requires less than 1% of high-cost semiconductor material when compared with traditional PV, and this is key to driving down the cost and increasing the application of PV technology.