02 May 2017
A E James
Muscat: A Chinese firm is joining hands with an Omani investment fund to build a large solar panel project in Duqm, which will have a capacity to manufacture panels for power plants to generate 1,000 megawatt (MW) energy per annum.

Ningxia Zhongke Jiaye New Energy and Technology Management Co. has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Oman Investment Fund to build the $94 million-solar panel venture in Duqm free zone. Ningxia Zhongke will have a 51 per cent stake, while the remaining 49 per cent ownership will be held by Oman Investment Fund, the president of Ningxia Zhongke, Li Li, told Times of Oman. 

In the first phase, the proposed company plans to produce solar panels that can generate 400 megawatt (MW) of energy per annum, which will be increased to 1,000 MW in the second phase. Also, the company anticipates $215 million in sales revenue per annum in the first phase.

The Chinese firm, which last month signed a land lease agreement with Oman Wanfang, the company that manages 1,172 hectares of land for developing a major China-Oman industrial zone in Duqm, plans to export its products to overseas markets, where the company has a strong presence.

Export markets

Presently, most of Ningxia’a products are sold within China, while a portion of the production is exported to Australia, Japan and south Asian countries. Since Oman does not have a large scale solar power plant, there is no ready-made market within the country. “This is what we need to push. We need to push the government to set up solar power stations,” added Li Li.

Ningxia has already conducted an initial feasibility study for setting up the project within Duqm free zone. “Now, we have to find out whether the raw materials for the project will be available locally. Also, we have to conduct a detailed market study before building the project. If the raw materials are not available within Oman, they will have to be imported.”

The company plans to start work on the project towards the end of the current year, or early next year.

Ningxia panels meet all international standards, including European and US standards.

“So, there will not be any problem in getting regulatory approvals in Oman,” said Li Li.

Employment potential

The Chinese company plans to employ 300 people in the first phase, which will be scaled up to 900 to 1,000 employees in the second phase.

“This is the first project, and if it goes well we have plans to build other projects. These projects are for making other products in the entire solar industry value chain,” added the official. He noted that China accounts for 70 per cent of global solar panel production.

Apart from Ningxia, nine Chinese firms last month signed land lease agreements with Oman Wanfang to build various projects, ranging from a methanol venture to a five-star hotel, with a total investment of $3.06 billion.

Oman Wanfang, which is a consortium of six private Chinese firms, will develop and attract direct foreign investment from China for building a host of light, medium and heavy industries and tourism projects.

© Times of Oman 2017