Masdar Gives Up Plans to Produce All of Its Own Power

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Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, got worldwide attention in 2006 with its plans to build a $22 billion green city that would be self-contained and 100% carbon neutral. The city, called Masdar, was intended to showcase innovative clean-energy technologies and help launch the country – a big player in the oil and gas industry – into leadership in green energy as well. But the plans have changed.

The city no longer plans to produce all of its own power or to emit zero carbon, Abu Dhabi Future Energy – the government-run company, better known also as Masdar, which is planning the city – told Emirates 24/7 and other publications Sunday. The company also has pushed back the city's expected completion date: It now plans to finish up no earlier than 2020, four years late, and possibly not until 2025.

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The news comes after Masdar in May announced it had "removed" the chief executive and chief operating officer of its solar subsidiary, Masdar PV. The city had planned to produce most of its power via large solar parks and had set up Masdar PV to make those panels.

Masdar PV then signed up to buy 210 megawatts worth of turnkey thin-film solar factories from Applied Materials, and – after some initial setbacks -- began producing panels from its first factory a year ago. (Rainer Gegenwart, former CEO of Masdar PV, told me last year that starting up had been more difficult than expected, but that Masdar PV was ready to start delivering panels to Abu Dhabi by the end of 2009.)

After news of Gegenwart's ouster, as well as several other Applied Materials's customers filing for bankruptcy, Applied Materials in June cancelled its turnkey thin-film solar line all together -- although it's still supplying individual pieces of thin-film solar manufacturing equipment.

While Masdar no longer plans to produce all of its own energy in the city, it still plans to develop clean-energy sources. The company told The Associated Press that it's exploring geothermal energy and solar-thermal cooling, and will now also consider buying renewable power from other locations.

The National
newspaper reported that Masdar was considering importing some of its renewable energy back in March, when Masdat also announced layoffs amid financial troubles. The new plan will cut the cost of the project by up to 15%, Masdar claims.

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