Genesis Morocco: How Saudi Arabia Can Harness Solar Energy to Remain in the Energy Business for the Long Run

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Genesis Morocco

Project Genesis is a strategic sustainable development framework for Morocco to translate from being a net importer of energy and a country facing water shortage issues, into the number one producer both of clean renewable energy and water in the region.

Friday, May 23, 2014    <<Home

How Saudi Arabia Can Harness Solar Energy to Remain in the Energy Business for the Long Run

Personal Notes: The Kingdom could remain in the energy business through a full energy reconversion and the massive exploitation of solar energy. Transformed into liquid hydrogen it can be exported anywhere in the world, and Saudi Arabia already disposes of the delivery infrastructure with its sizable tanker fleet and pipelines that can be re-engineered for hydrogen transport.

Every square meter of Saudi Arabia produces an extraordinary 7 kilowatt hours of energy daily in each 12 hours of sun power. If the Saudis were to use up each days solar energy supply, or 12,425 TWh of electricity, it would be a 72 year supply.

Put another way, in just one day, enough solar energy hits Saudi sands to power the kingdom for 72 years, according to a study made by the World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology.

That is an extraordinary resource. It is significantly more than the rest of the world. For example: as a Californian who used a typical 15 kilowatt hours of energy a day, this means my entire home could have been fully solar powered by just 2 square meters – or about 3 feet by 6 feet – of solar panels in Saudi Arabia

And Saudi Arabia has about 2 trillion square meters able to produce 14 trillion kilowatt hours of solar energy every sunny day – that is enough to power the world.

But of course, no country wants to be entirely devoted to energy production, least of all one that is still making good money from digging up oil, but it is indicative of the kind of money the Kingdom could be earning from solar exports rather than oil exports.

Just as it earns its vast income from oil now, it could equally well earn a similarly vast income from solar in the future. And for vast eons of time.

Transitioning to solar from oil would take an initial investment in the infrastructure, and then would yield an income stream regardless of fuel depletion, because solar is there for the long run, unlike the oil which is getting harder and harder to get out of the ground.

But it is Saudi Arabia itself which is in the best position in the world to make that transition and invest in a replacement for oil. With oil prices at $102 a barrel at today’s market price, the Saudis have over $30 trillion in underground assets.

With that much money in huge (but depleting) assets in petroleum and natural gas reserves, now is the time that Saudi Arabia should invest and become the world’s largest producer of green solar energy.

Saudi Arabia could export solar for centuries either as electricity into the Desertec grid, or as hydrogen fuel, using its tankers and pipelines.

Desertec, which will be shipping billions of kilowatt hours of desert solar energy across to Europe in the near future is becoming a reality in more MENA region nations with the addition of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, but the Saudis are not members of the visionary project.

Even though; unlike its poorer neighbors, it has tremendous financial assets – enough to become a leader in the project along with the giant German energy companies RWE and E.On – because it could self-fund its own Desertec infrastructure investment.

With over 250 hours of sunshine each month, Saudi Arabia is ideally located to make the most of solar power.

It even has the infrastructure already in place to be a leader in the solar-powered hydrogen economy of the future. Increasingly hydrogen researchers are turning to sustainable long term sources – wind or solar – for hydrogen production.

Solar powered hydrogen could be transported in the same pipeline and tanker infrastructure that now moves our climate-destroying oil energy around the world.

Saudi Aramco – 100% owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – through its affiliate, Vela Marine International Ltd, owns and operates the world’s second largest tanker fleet to help transport its crude oil production, which amounted to 3 billion barrels a year. It is a world leader in exploration, producing, refining, distribution, shipping and marketing.

Most of this infrastructure and expertise could be repurposed to transform Saudi Arabia into a solar hydrogen economy.

This infrastructure could be re-engineered to become a gigantic carrier fleet for hydrogen made with sustainable solar energy and shipped worldwide. New solar infrastructure could be added, as it has begun to do in making polysilicon from its sand.

It is Saudi Arabia that holds the key, with its unique combination of natural and financial resources, to creating a huge long-term future for the world that is based on a sustainable permanent source of energy: our sun.

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$109 Billion Solar Plan to Power a Third of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has finally noticed it has twenty centuries of solar reserves and has made plans to tap them. For its own use.The Kingdom has just announced a $109 billion plan to create a solar industry that generates a third of the nation’s electricity by 2032, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Maher al- Odan, a consultant at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) announced a plan to have 41 GW of solar capacity within two decades.

To put 41 GW in perspective, China is the world’s leader in wind power now, overtaking Germany and the U.S. with  about 48 GW of wind. This is a very serious move by a country well able to afford this kind of investment, that till recently has lagged the rest of the MENA region in renewables trailing Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.

Traditional photovoltaic (PV) solar is to supply 16 GW, but the bulk of the solar (25 GW) is to come from the very desert-friendly concentrated solar power (CSP) that focuses the sun with mirrors to create the intense heat that drives turbines in a thermal power plant.

Citing government officials, Deutsche Bank said the capacity would be added in competitive bidding starting with 1,100 megawatts of PV and 900 megawatts of solar thermal in the first quarter of 2013. A second round of bidding is due in the second half of 2014.

Solar Reserve, which is constructing the largest 24 hour solar CSP project worldwide in Nevada has already been in talks with the Saudis.

Kevin Smith the CEO of Solar Reserve told GreenProphet that the company is among those looking to bid. The CSP company uses similar technology to the Gemasolar project built in Spain by Abu Dhabi’s visionary state-funded clean energy company Masdar. Because both use molten salt as both the transfer liquid and the storage medium, they can supply electricity long after dark.

“They really only – in the last couple of years – have started to really increase their solar activity” he said of Saudi solar ambitions. “We expect there will be projects going into construction in Saudi next year. Hopefully with us, but certainly, with someone. We expect that their program will kick off next year. We hope we get can projects in construction in 2013.”

The Saudis could potentially save 523,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day over the next 20 years by such a boost to renewable energy, according to Saudi officials.

“The difficulties the Saudis have is their economy is all oil based” Smith concurred. “Really they want to maximize their exports of oil, but really what they’re using a lot of their oil for power generation in the country. It’s fine if oil is $20 a barrel, but now that they can sell it for $100 plus a barrel, it’s not a very cost-effective use of their oil.”

Nuclear, wind and geothermal would together contribute just half that amount at a still staggering 21,000 megawatts (21 GW) but the new solar plans dwarf these. As they should.

“We are not only looking for building solar plants,” al- Odan said in an interview in Riyadh yesterday. “We want to run a sustainable solar energy sector that will become a driver for the domestic energy for years to come.”

The Saudis may require bid winners to supply from factories built in the nation, according to Vishal Shah, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in New York

About $82 billion will go to capital costs, with the remainder of the $109 billion going to train the Saudis to run the solar plants as well as for maintenance and operation, al-Odan told Bloomberg.

Once the strategy, which includes new regulations and financial incentives for private investors, is approved “we will start implementation directly,” al-Odan said.

Saudi Arabia may burn 850 million barrels of oil a year, or 30 percent of its crude output, to generate electricity by 2030 if doesn’t become efficient in energy consumption, Electricity & Co-Generation Regulatory Authority Governor Abdullah Al-Shehri said in a presentation in Riyadh May 8.

Its plans are likely to be approved later this year, al-Suliman said, according to a copy of the presentation he gave on May 8.

“The Saudi Arabian government has a powerful incentive to diversify its energy mix to reduce dependence on oil,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, an analyst at New Energy Finance in London.

Assuming initial capital costs for the solar projects of about $2.17 per watt of capacity installed, he added “The state could generate an internal rate of return of approximately 12 percent if it built a PV plant and sold the displaced oil on the international markets.”

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