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Saudi Solar Energy

Saudi Arabia is the “Saudi Arabia of solar energy potential.” Saudi Arabia is conveniently located in the sun belt to take advantage of solar energy Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s most intense sunlight. Average solar irradiation in Saudi Arabia is about twice as high as in Germany. Average solar irradiation exceeds 1.800 kWh/m2 up to 2.200 in some locations. The Tabuk area has the highest irraditation. Saudi Arabia also has vast expanses of open desert seemingly tailor-made for solar-panel arrays.

There are two primary methods used to collect solar energy, the first is through photovoltaic (PV) cells that usually cover large areas and face technical difficulties under very high ambient temperatures accompanying the heat gathered from the concentrated solar rays. This creates an obstacle for using PV in Saudi Arabia. Concentrated solar power plants (CPS) are the other dominant method.

Dust storms and sandstorms can quickly slash the amount of electricity a solar panel produces. Solar panels are normally cleaned by “guys with squeegees”. A new approach is a long metal rod with lines of brush bristles, powered by the panels. Some areas of Saudi Arabia are not suitable for use as foundations for PV modules because of their geomorphologic features. Areas of sand dunes and shifting sands are inappropriate for the erection of PV modules because the sand cones do not form a strong compound.

As the PV surface is exposed to the sunlight, the module temperature increases. High ambient temperatures along with long sunlight exposure time increases the temperature impact on PV cells efficiency. Hence, the output power is reduced by 2%-26.4% considering different mounting and weather conditions. Moreover, other elements like the encapsulations and wires are affected and rapidly degraded.

CSP power plants require about 5 acres of land area per megawatt of installed capacity. Since 1 square mile = 640 acres, one square mile would support 128 Mwe of installed capacity, and one square kilometer would support slighly less than 50 MWe of installed capacity. As of 2010 Saudi Arabia had about 50,000 MWe of installed electrical generation capacity. The country's total installed capacity was just under 70,000 MW in 2013. Saudi Arabia has a total land area of approximately 830,000 square miles (2,150,000 km2). If half this area [1,000,000 km2] were devoted to solar generation, in dournd numbers the capacity would be 50,000,000 MWe. Total world installed capacity in 2012 was 5,550,000 MWe.

CSP plants require relatively large tracts of nearly level open land with economically attractive solar resources. Solar generation can be estimated by assuming an average annual solar capacity factor of 25%-50%, depending on the degree of thermal storage used for a plant.

Saudi Arabia consumes a quarter of its oil production, or 2.8 million barrels a day, for domestic energy needs. The government sells gasoline to consumers for about 50 cents a gallon and electricity for as little as 1 cent a kilowatt-hour, a fraction of the lowest prices in the United States. Air conditioners consumed 70 percent of the kingdom’s electricity in 2013. Although the kingdom has just 30 million people, it is the world’s sixth-largest consumer of oil. In October 2014, the World Bank estimated that Saudi Arabia spends more than 10 percent of its GDP on these subsidies - about $80 billion a year — more than a third of the kingdom’s budget.

Aramco sells oil to the Saudi Electricity Company for about $4 a barrel, roughly the cost of production. Solar power is likely to cost more than electricity from existing conventional oil-fired plants because those plants get oil at a subsidized price.

According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014, Saudi Arabia generated 292.2 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity in 2013, 7% more than in 2012 and more than double the electricity generated in 2000. Like many developing countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia faces a sharply rising demand for power.

Solar power in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia dates back to the 1970s, and many pioneering solar projects are still in service today. More recently, the Kingdom has expressed strong support for a sustainable future in Saudi Arabia by encouraging the development of a substantial alternative energy capacity fully supported by world-class local industries. On 17 April 2010, H.M. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued Royal order A/35, which established King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A. CARE).

As of the end of 2013, Saudi Arabia had installed just 25 MW of solar power, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, compared with more than 35,000 MW in Germany.

By 2032, Saudi Arabia plans to add 41 GW of solar power, 18 GW of nuclear power, and 4 GW from other renewable sources to expand electricity supply. In January 2015 Saudi Arabia delayed by eight years its target to complete clean-energy program including $109 billion in solar power, saying it needs more time to assess what technologies it will use. The project was originally intended to produce a third of the nation’s electricity from solar panels by 2032 and more from wind, geothermal and nuclear reactors.

On 21 May 2015, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister Ali Al-Naimi – who also heads the country’s climate planning – said the government planned to be a “global leader in solar and wind energy.... In Saudi Arabia, we recognise that eventually, one of these days, we are not going to need fossil fuels. I don’t know when, in 2040, 2050 or thereafter,” he told a conference in Paris. Al-Naimi added that "hopefully, one of these days, instead of exporting fossil fuels, we will be exporting gigawatts of electric power. He noted that oil prices as low as $30 or $40 a barrel wouldn't make solar power uneconomic.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2016 20:03:31 ZULU