Doha, Qatar – Qatar has unveiled a first-of-its-kind solar-panel factory, saying it was now the largest solar-power producer in the region with the ability to generate 300mw of energy a year.

On Sunday, the Qatar Solar Energy company also announced a three-phase plan to eventually produce 2.5gw of solar energy annually, though QSE board member Reyad Fezzani would not specify a timeframe.

“It’s an exciting future for solar energy and we haven’t even scratched the surface,” Fezzani said on a tour of the facility on the outskirts of the capital, Doha.

While Qatar – the largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the world – is unlikely to trade fossil-fuel production for solar anytime soon, Fezzani said the time had come to focus on renewable energy. Qatar’s government plans to convert two percent of its power output to renewable sources by 2020.

“Hydrocarbons are going to be with us for many years, but we need to move towards environmentally friendly energy sources,” he said.

Qatar Solar Energy’s Reyad Fezzani [Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]
The development of solar power has taken off in recent years around the world, but particularly in the Middle East, where a day rarely goes by without long periods of the sun beating down on the desert sands.

Over the past decade, investment in solar energy has soared, with $5bn spent in 2003 leaping to $93bn today, according to the Solar GCC Alliance.

Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, visited the solar panel factory for Sunday’s inauguration.

“What impresses me is that it’s driven by a visionary view of what we should be doing for the future,” Pachauri told Al Jazeera, adding the facility was “beyond state-of-the-art”.

“Yes, Qatar has extremely high [per capita greenhouse gas] emissions, but I suppose the beginning of a journey starts with the first step. And I would commend the fact that they are looking further into the future than most countries are.”

News at Aljazeera Chaneel