‘Solar power can fulfill Saudi Arabia’s growing electricity needs’

solar PatrickMoore sxc.huSaudi Arabian companies have invested close to US$5.5bn in renewable projects globally. (Image source: Patrick Moore/sxc.hu)Saudi Arabia can meet its growing power needs solely through the deployment of new solar projects with energy storage, Ibrahim Babelli, deputy minister, Ministry of Economy and Planning of Saudi Arabia, said at the MENASol 2016 conference held recently

“We should actually put a hiatus on power plants using fossil fuels and look only for solar as the future for energy in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

As the chief strategist for Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy from 2010 to 2015, Babelli led the development of new regulatory frameworks for renewable and nuclear power.

According to reports, Saudi Arabia has lagged behind other Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries on renewable energy deployment but the Kingdom’s new Vision 2030 Plan sets a target of 9.5GW renewables by 2023 alongside the roll out of large-scale industrialisation projects. The renewable energy program is to be led by a new ministry of energy, industry and mineral resources.

The rising need for baseload power to fuel industrial growth should be met by the targeted deployment of photovoltaic (PV) power and concentrated solar power (CSP), Babelli revealed.

“The advantage that comes with CSP should be a no-brainer for Saudi Arabia.”

In high solar irradiation regions, PV with batteries are seen as the most economic solar solution for storage durations of a few hours, while CSP plants offer lower generation costs across longer storage periods.

A combination of PV and CSP with storage would be able to cover Saudi Arabia’s seasonal demand peaks and would cost less than new large scale nuclear generation.

Until now, consultants have come to Saudi Arabia with a “one model fits all” approach, and this has held back growth in the Kingdom, Babelli noted.

“This was the fundamental reason why nothing moved in Saudi Arabia for six years,” he added.

In addition to the cost benefits of solar power, targeted distributed solar generation would reduce the risk of power supply dips due to large plant outages, according to the deputy minister.

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