There are differences in operating and deploying big solar power projects, but it's relatively straight-forward technology, and there is a lot of overlap with running conventional plants, Reicher said.
"I wouldn't sit here and suggest that there are huge areas of expertise that an EPC doing work in Europe or North America would necessarily have over a company in the Middle East," he said, using an acronym for engineering, procurement and construction management firms.
Many of the projects are actually joint ventures with foreign firms with expertise in the field of solar deployment, said Justin Dargin, an expert on Middle East energy and former research fellow at Harvard's Dubai Initiative.
For the Dubai project, ACWA is working with Spanish engineering and construction company TSK and using solar modules created by U.S.-based First Solar.
This collaboration is mutually beneficial, Dargin said. The Middle Eastern companies further develop their capabilities while working alongside foreigners, and the international firms improve their odds of cracking into the the lucrative Arab gulf and North African markets.
The knowledge transfer that comes with this type of collaboration also advances efforts by fossil fuel-dependent gulf states to diversify their economies and create new jobs for their huge populations of young people.
"They're trying to get this knowledge skill set to give their youth advanced tech training, which would also provide a job source which would be outside traditional government jobs, which have been the mainstay for most of their respective histories," Dargin said.