Sources close to the deal tell MEED the planned petrochemicals plant will be built in Jubail and produce more than 7,000 tonnes a year (t/y) of polysilicon.

First Energy has secured the land, licence and power supply to develop the project, and an as yet unnamed European solar panel manufacturer will buy the polysilicon produced at the factory.

Sources in Saudi Arabia say First Energy will finance the Jubail project largely through export credit agency funding. Construction should start in 2010.

“There is room in the market for several projects like this” says one source involved in the First Energy scheme. “In the Middle East, there is a lot of interest in renewable-energy projects.”

The polysilicon project is one of First Energy’s largest schemes since its creation by Bahrain’s Gulf Finance House in February 2008.

Its other major investments include a 9 per cent stake in the Addur power and water project in Bahrain in September, and involvement in the $5bn Hadeed steel project with several other regional investors in 2008.

First Energy is one of several renewable energy developers in the region.

In March 2008, Saudi Arabia’s Swicorp announced plans to develop a 3,000-t/y polysilicon manufacturing facility at Jubail.

“There is no concern about this other project being developed in the same location,” says one source close to the Swicorp scheme.