Egyptian Native Antoine Bittar Shares Solar Expertise in 'Sun City'

Antoine Bittar at MENASOL 2010Dr. Antoine Bittar, one of the solar experts who spoke at MENASOL. (Photo by author.)

While the previous MENASOL speaker profiled here (Nasser Majali) is a relative newcomer to the field of solar energy, Dr. Antoine Bittar, the Engineering Director for Solar Power at RES Mediterranean, is a leading expert in this field.

For the soft-spoken scientist, the conference in Cairo was a homecoming of sorts: Though now based in France, he was born in the neighborhood where the conference took place. Fittingly, he notes, the neighborhood is called Heliopolis – “sun city.”

In the early 1960s, Bittar’s family emigrated to New Zealand. Why New Zealand of all places? “It’s a long story,” he says with a smile. “Conditions were difficult in Egypt, and my family applied to several places. It was indeed unusual in those days for people from Egypt, or anyone in the Middle East, to go to New Zealand as immigrants.”

After earning degrees in Physics and Material Sciences in New Zealand, he won a scholarship to do his PhD in Paris. Bittar’s career in the solar field developed from his early work on selective surfaces – “the black surfaces on pipes and tubes used in solar thermal conversion,” he explains.” This led to my collaboration with people in the business, including in Australia and in France.”

His collaboration in Australia with David Mills, a pioneer in Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector (CLFR) technology, led him to California, where they founded the Ausra CSP startup. Bittar served as Ausra’s vice president for R&D.

Expanding the MENA portfolio

Now at RES Mediterranean, Bittar hopes to expand the solar portfolio of the group, whose main projects to date have been wind ventures in France and in Turkey.

“Working in the Middle East market is not always straightforward,” he says with a grin. But he is optimistic about the prospects for renewable energy in the MENA area and notes that the company has made good progress in wind energy projects in Egypt – “and this is not because I was born in Egypt.”

More MENASOL-related posts:
Cautious Optimisim at MENASOL Solar Energy Conference in Cairo
DESERTEC Opportunities for Mideast Countries

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