Abu Dhabi-China is helping to build power plants in the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates won't be far behind.
Masdar Power, the power plant company inside the Masdar Initiative, is examining the possibility of setting up joint ventures to build solar or wind farms in the U.S.
"We are looking seriously at the U.S.," said Frank Wouters, associate director of Masdar Power at a briefing with reporters during the World Future Energy Summit taking place this week in Abu Dhabi. "We want to be a sizeable player in the next few years."
The company also wants to participate in the round three of the leases to be awarded by the United Kingdom for offshore wind farms.
The strategy comes largely as a result of two factors. One, Abu Dhabi, the dominate emirate in the United Arab Emirates, has money. Although it suffered through 2008 and 2009 like the rest of the world, Abu Dhabi still has a strong balance sheet. Two, it has launched an ambitious plan to transfer the local skills it has developed over the years in bringing large oil complexes online into alternative energy. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of the organizational and financial challenges are the same, he said.
"A $2 billion offshore wind farm is not that different," he noted, adding, "Money is something in the present time frame we can bring."
Whether and how the plan works remains to be seen. On one hand, Abu Dhabi's success in the energy business is tough to deny. Multinationals also have a strong presence in U.S. energy markets. Vestas, from Denmark, produces wind turbines for the U.S. and China's A-Power Technologies will build a wind farm and a turbine factory in Texas.
On the other hand, a growing domestic alternative energy industry will make it challenging for foreign entrants. Any move by Masdar in the states, however, won't be taken alone. The company does not want to build up a large autonomous presence in the U.S. and will largely work through joint ventures and partnerships.
"We do not have the ability to build up a large network," he said.
Either way, Masdar Power is a company to keep tabs on. The company is already developing a hydrogen power plant in the area with BP. The power plant, set to go live in 2012 or 2013, will take methane, crack it, and feed the hydrogen into a turbine to produce power and feed the carbon dioxide (a byproduct of methane cracking) into oil wells for enhanced oil extraction. It has also already financed three solar thermal plants in Spain and is in the planning process of building a solar thermal plant here.
It is also an investor in WinWinD, a Finnish company that hopes to make multi-megawatt turbines. The gearbox in the turbines is simpler than the ones found in conventional turbines, he said, which could allow the company to build turbines capable of 5, 7 or 10 megawatts.
Wouters also emphasized that Masdar, which is wholly owned by the government-owned Mubadala, is not a passing fancy for the company. The move into alternative energy is a long-term strategy.
He relayed how the Mubadala's CEO once described the strategy: "'Even though we are a Muslim country, we like Catholic marriages,'"