Saudi goes Solar

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Saudi Electric, the utility arm of the Kingdom, has installed solar panels on Farasan Island and plans to connect to the grid in the following month. The 500-kilowatt array is a move to meet majority of its domestic electric needs and use the existing oil and gas for exports and industrial development. The amount of sunlight available in the region is one of the highest in the world. Apart from solar electric, Saudi is expected to outline its plan later this year for large-scale renewables and nuclear power. Today the kingdom fuels about half of its power plants with natural gas, with crude oil and oil derivatives supplying the other half.

Dr Abdullah al Shehri, the governor of the Electricity & Co-Generation Regulatory Authority has said that Saudi Arabia has 52 gigawatts of installed capacity and will need to increase that to 120gw in the next two decades if it is to meet projected demand.

The kingdom has so far taken a measured pace in developing renewables, testing different types of solar technology rather than leaping into 100 megawatt projects as the UAE is doing. Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company, is in the process of building a US$700 million (Dh2.57 billion) solar array called Shams 1 and has plans for a second, Nour 1, that could be even bigger.

Mr. Atsuhiko Hirano, a senior vice president at Solar Frontier said “We are aware that Masdar has been requesting proposals for the Nour 1 project, and we are keeping a close eye on how we can participate in that. I’m sure we can expand out of the kingdom and into the region, including North Africa.”

Yesterday the Jeddah newspaper Arab Newssaid Saudi Arabia was considering building 16 nuclear reactors in a $300bn programme. King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, the agency that would be responsible for such a plan, was not available for comment, and electricity officials said they had no knowledge of such a plan.

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