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Saudi Aramco plans solar cell output with Showa

Joint venture with Japanese firm is part of Kingdom's drive to reduce its use of fossil fuels by building nuclear and renewable power plants

Reuters, Wednesday 5 Oct 2011

The chief executive of state-run Saudi Aramco, Khalid Al-Falih, aims to begin production of solar cells in Saudi Arabia in two to three years in a joint venture with Japanese thin-film solar cell maker Showa Shell Sekiyu KK, Japan's Nikkei business daily said on Tuesday.

If Aramco can introduce Showa Shell's technology into Saudi Arabia, that would contribute a lot to the nation's main goal of industrial diversification, he was quoted as telling the newspaper in an interview.

Saudi Arabia, one of the world's biggest crude oil exporters, hopes to reduce its use of fossil fuels, which it would rather export, by building nuclear and renewable power plants.

A Showa Shell spokesman said that the two have been considering such a venture but that no details have been decided.

In 2009, Aramco and Showa Shell signed an agreement to build small-scale pilot solar-power facilities in the kingdom, and Showa Shell and Saudi Electricity Co (SEC) this year launched a 500-kilowatt (kW) solar power plant in Saudi Arabia.

Showa Shell specialises in solar cells made using copper, indium and selenium. The materials are not as efficient at converting light into electricity as mainstream solar cells made from polysilicon but are cheaper, a point that will be key in the future.

Showa Shell, which is owned one-third by Royal Dutch Shell and about 15 per cent by Saudi Aramco, has been considering building a fourth solar cell plant, which could be the firm's first overseas facility.


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