(EnergyAsia, April 18 2012, Wednesday) — Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an Abu Dhabi-based graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, and First Solar Inc, a producer of photovoltaic (PV) solar modules and solar systems, recently conducted a workshop to highlight the role of research and development (R & D) in the fast evolving solar power industry.

The workshop, “Solar PV: Striving for Grid Parity – the Importance of R&D,” was led by James Brown, First Solar’s President for Global Business Development.

The session, ‘PV technology, system optimisation and the role of R&D’, was conducted by David Eaglesham, First Solar’s chief technology officer, while the last session, ‘Innovation in EPC and O&M’, was led by Matthew Merfert, the company’s EPC Director.

Steve Griffiths, executive director of Initiatives at Masdar Institute, gave the welcome address that was followed by a talk on ‘Emirates Solar Industry Association (ESIA) Introduction: Solar potential in the Middle East’ by Sami Khoreibi, CEO of Enviromena Power Systems, a leading developer of solar projects in the Middle East and North Africa region.

More than 20 industry professionals, as well as faculty, researchers and students from Masdar Institute attended the workshop.

First Solar supplied its thin film solar modules for the Masdar City PV plant that was designed and constructed by Abu Dhabi-based Enviromena. First Solar will be working with Masdar Institute to research the economic potential of solar PV in the UAE.

Mr Brown said the solar industry has witnessed tremendous growth globally in the past few years at the same time that the cost of solar PV has fallen dramatically. First Solar has chosen to focus on utility-scale PV generation in order to translate low PV costs, economies of scale and engineering know-how into the lowest electricity cost in order to make the largest global impact. 

The company expects to produce approximately 2GW in 2012 and is targeting reductions in its module manufacturing cost per Watt from US$0.74 in Q3 2011 to less than US$0.60 by 2015. First Solar has two priorities: continuing its investments in R&D, and bringing its utility-scale solar power plants to ‘sustainable markets,’ regions experiencing high energy growth with high, although not readily apparent, energy costs.’