Saudi Arabia targets 41GW of solar installations by 2032

This solar rooftop in Saudi Arabia, shown here during construction, is now complete and connected to the grid.

The world’s largest oil producer is now generating electricity from the sun. Saudi Arabia’s National Solar Systems (NSS) and Conergy, a German-based solar consortium, last week announced the completion of a solar park on the rooftop of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

“For the first time, clean power is flowing into the national grid. This is a historical event for us in Saudi Arabia,” explained Abdulhadi Al-Mureeh, the managing director of NSS.

Although it sits on about 20% of the world’s proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia seeks to make solar power a significant component of its energy supply within the next decade. This includes plans for a series of solar-powered desalination facilities, incorporating locally developed nanotechnology.

The solar rooftop at KAUST is a modest start, generating 2 MW of power. However, the oil-rich kingdom sees a sunny future: “Saudi Arabia aspires to export as much solar energy in the future as it exports oil now,” Saudi Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Ali Al-Naimi, declared in a recent interview.This is a wake up call for the United States that the oil rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning 41 GW of solar for their country. The proposed framework would cost tens of billions of dollars and see Saudi Arabia producing almost 25% of its electricity from solar power installations.

If the plans come to fruition, Saudi Arabia will become one of the world’s largest solar power producers. King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE), the government body directing alternative energy development, have announced the country’s ambitious long-term goals for solar power. The first round of bidding will be in the first quarter of 2013, where 1.1GW worth of PV project and 0.9GW of concentrated solar PV (“CSP”) will be up for sale. The second round of bidding will take place in the third/fourth quarter of 2014, when they will be offering 1.3GW worth of PV project and 1.2GW of CSP. The minimum project size for sale is expected to be 5MW. Project offers will be assessed on qualitative measures such as experience in the development of solar projects as well as suggested price per kWh of produced electricity.

Through the implementation of the program according to KA-CARE aims to diversify Saudi Arabia’s energy mix to create jobs, generate green power and reduce the wasteful use of hydrocarbons.