Solar Frontier open CIS production talks with Saudi Arabia

Japan’s Solar Frontier, a specialist in copper indium diselenide (CIS) solar PV modules, has opened talks with Saudi Arabia about the possibility of developing a CIS production facility in the country.

Owned by Showa Shell Sekiyu Group, Tokyo-headquartered Solar Frontier has begun the process of wider internationalization in recent months in preparation for an expected domestic downturn in solar demand.

In eyeing Saudi Arabia’s potential – the Kingdom has extremely high levels of solar irradiation and recently set a 9.5 GW renewable energy target by 2030 – Solar Frontier is announcing its intention to explore mature, emerging and fledgling global solar markets.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is merely a first step along what has traditionally been a long and winding road for international energy firms doing business in Saudi Arabia, but the intent should be applauded.

Government-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) has co-signed the MoU alongside the Saudi Arabian National Industrial Cluster Development Program (NICDP). The MoU stipulates that all three companies work with the Saudi government to conduct a joint feasibility study into the possibility of producing CIS module in the Kingdom, covering both technological and economic attractions of developing such modules in the country.

CIS modules are generally better-suited to the desert climate typical of Saudi Arabia, able to operate at better efficiencies during hot temperatures and in dry, dusty conditions.

Saudi Arabia’s solar ambitions have long been bold, but tangible progress has been sadly lacking. A nation bestowed with unrivalled hydrocarbon riches was always likely to be reticent on renewables, but the recently announced Vision 2030 appears to have set in place workable guidelines, policies and regulations that will support at least a tentative embrace of solar power after years of failed promises.

Solar Frontier, meanwhile, recently began commercial production at its 150 MW CIS plant in Tohoku, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.