Saudi Arabia, UAE Lead Race to Deploy Solar Projects

REMWednesday, 04 September 2013

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have emerged as the biggest markets among GCC states for the deployment of solar power, accounting for most of the projects. The six GCC countries altogether have sanctioned solar power installation projects worth approximately $155 billion, which will generate more than 84 GW of power when complete in 2017.

Saudi Arabia, UAE lead race to deploy solar projects

The Gulf countries will be addressing some of the main challenges related to the deployment of energy projects in desert terrain, at a high-level industry summit, called Gulf Sol 2013, taking place at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre from September 3 to 5. The event will feature government and private sector companies discussing ways of effective deployment of solar projects while also showcasing some of the latest international technologies.

At a press conference in Dubai, Derek Burston, Director of the UK-based Bowmedia, organisers of Gulf Sol 2013, summarized the growth of the GCC photo-voltaic market as “phenomenal”.

“Over the years, solar power has been acknowledged as the most promising source of renewable energy and GCC governments have demonstrated their keenness to shift from traditional energy sources to these low-cost and abundant alternatives,” he said.

“Direct radiation in many Middle Eastern countries exceeds 6 kWh per square metre per day, making for excellent solar potential. In addition, recent decreases in the costs of solar technologies coupled with rising electricity demand in these growing nations, if coupled with the right policies, could make the region a hub for solar expansion,” Burston added.

The Emirates Solar Industries Association (ESIA) estimates that the key MENA markets to adopt solar power will be Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Kuwait as well as Morocco. All of these countries have potent economic reasons for adopting solar technologies, and none of these nations have been directly affected by recent unrest.

Speaking at the press conference, Marc Norman, Director of Emirates Solar Industries Association, said, “The economics of switching to solar energy in the Middle East is ever more compelling. With oil prices increasing, and solar technology costs plummeting, it is time for governments in the Middle East to turn talk into action.”

Gulf Sol 2013 assumes added significance given that Abu Dhabi has set a goal of generating 7 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and the state-owned renewable energy company, Masdar, has announced that it will invest up to AED6 billion in alternative energy schemes alongside the UK’s Green Investment Bank (GIB). Masdar is currently evaluating solar thermal technology at its Masdar City project and has installed a field of TVP solar thermal panels as a pilot project.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, hopes to double its installed electricity capacity by building 54 GW of renewable energy (as well as 17.6 GW of nuclear power) by 2032, of which 41 GW will obtained from the sun. Riyadh in Saudi Arabia currently boasts the world's largest solar thermal plant at 36,300 square meters, with commissioning announced in April 2012. The plant provides hot water for an estimated 40,000 students at Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for Women.

Another major project in the region is Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which aims for 1 GW of PV and CSP generation by 2030. The USD 3.2 billion, 48 square kilometer park is the personal project of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Top Solar Power Projects in the Middle East

  • The largest photo-voltaic plant in the region is Enviromena's 10 MW PV plant in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, UAE, which was commissioned in 2009. The plant comprises 50% First Solar CdTe thin-film modules and 50% c-Si technology.
  • The most advanced large PV project is likely a 10 MW solar canopy project using CIS modules supplied by Solar Frontier at Saudi Aramco offices. When completed, the Al Midra project will also be the largest carport PV project globally. However, Solar Frontier has not supplied a precise expected completion date.
  • Riyadh, Saudi Arabia currently boasts the world's largest solar thermal plant at 36,300 square meters, with commissioning announced in April 2012. The plant provides hot water for an estimated 40,000 students at Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for Women.
  • Masdar is also evaluating solar thermal technology at its Masdar City project, and has installed a field of TVP Solar thermal panels as a pilot project.
  • Desertec, an ambitious project seeks to build a network of CSP, PV and wind farms across the MENA region and export the electricity to Europe via high-voltage DC lines. This vision is being advanced through both Desertec Industrial Initiative GmbH and the non-profit Desertec Foundation. The Desertec plan has hinged on very large CSP projects and high-voltage DC transmission lines linking the MENA region and Europe, including subsea transmission across the Mediterranean.
  • As a leading state in the region for renewable energy development, the UAE is also conducting two ambitious projects, which are confined in geography if not in scale. The largest project announced to date is the USD 3.2 billion, 48 square kilometer Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which aims for 1 GW of PV and CSP generation by 2030.
  • Masdar City is currently home to the region's first utility-scale PV plant at 10 MW as well as a pilot solar thermal plant, with plans to expand the solar thermal component.

The agenda at the Gulf Sol 2013 summit includes discussions on feasibility of solar power projects in remote areas, the wide range of unrealized opportunities in the region for international companies and enforceable regulatory and policy frameworks for implementation of solar projects. The event is expected to be attended by more than 5,000 participants from the region and around the world and will be accompanied by interactive workshops by industry leaders.

GulfSol 2013 is also highlighting the importance of another industry – the glass sector – which has benefited due to the high demand for solar panels. GulfSol 2013 is being held alongside the 5th edition of the popular Gulf Glass 2013 exhibition, the only specialized regional event dealing with the region’s thriving glass industry.

The twin exhibitions will allow the region’s construction and utilities sectors a unique perspective in implementing cost-effective clean energy initiatives in their construction and power projects.

Some of the top names participating in the event include 3M, Hyundai, 33 Green Technologies, Apex Power Concepts, Conergy, Hensel Electric Private Ltd, Kingspan, Kipp & Zonen, Robotina Group, LDK Solar Hi-Tech, Millennium Energy Industries, Premier Solar Technologies, Rentech, Spire Solar, Ruth & Rau and Green Lighting.

For additional information: Panorama