It's no secret that oil rich Abu Dhabi sees renewable energy as the theme for the next chapter of its place in history. The emirate already has invested billions of dollars to pave the way to this new economy. It has taken stakes in many wind and solar power energy projects, started its own solar panel manufacturing business and put money in other solar panel manufacturers in Europe, United States and Asia. It also has formed partnerships with multinational energy, automotive and information technology giants and begun building a city from scratch to showcase low-carbon technologies.

One of the original ideas was to paper the commercial and residential rooftops with solar panels. But doing so is more expensive than building a centralized solar power plant, Ahmed Baghoum, associate director of Masdar City, said.