The Sultanate of Oman, despite its small population of under 3 million, is forming an unusual partnership arrangement with Terra Nex for financing and project development of solar infrastructure capabilities locally.
Terra Nex, a Switzerland-based wealth management company that develops investment opportunities, acts as a project and business developer in the Middle East, and it partners with institutional investors in Europe that are able to further the projects it develops.
In collaboration with the Middle East Best Select (MEBS) Group of Funds, Terra Nex plans to invest $2 billion to develop local solar power factories in the Sultanate, with the capability of producing 400 MW of solar panels a year.
As recently as 2004, Oman’s electricity was entirely fossil-fueled. In 2010, after putting out requests for proposals, Oman selected its first solar project to be built by a foreign developer, that should begin to put a dent in its 3.3 GW demand. (Astonfield Renewable Resources to Help Oman Tap 200 MW of Solar.)
Its second was a truly groundbreaking new type of solar from a California inventor – protected in a glass house – that could forever change the way that oil is mined from the desert sands – and the way that the delicate moving parts of tracking solar is protected from dust storms in deserts. (GlassPoint Solar Wins Huge Middle East Oil Field Contract)
But for the Terra Nex solar infrastructure project, instead of “importing” a turnkey project built by a foreign developer, Oman will begin developing its own expertise needed to create a complete solar supply chain locally, according to Sheikh Hilal Bin Khalid Bin Nasser Al Maawali, the Oman partner of Terra Nex and MEBS in Oman.
Solar power stations, solar panel and aluminium frame factories, renewable energy engineering institutes and related infrastructure are all to be developed in Oman from the ground up. Ultimately this could begin to supply the MENA region with reliable homegrown energy from panels produced locally, and with local engineering and labor.
Some of the largest German renewable engineering firms have expressed interest in the idea. Siemens and other German technology partners have proposed training opportunities for Omani youth, who would travel to Germany for training, and bring home the knowhow needed for skilled work in renewable energy in Oman.
In addition, a European university would set up a educational institution in the sultanate to provide training in renewable energy engineering. For Oman, this third step is a very smart move.