If Saudi Arabia doesn’t develop an efficient, renewable energy infrastructure soon, it could burn 850 million barrels of oil each year until 2030; 30% of its total production. As the largest oil producer in the world it has no fear of running out, but it represents a huge portion of potential revenue that would be lost.
Currently the Middle Eastern nation only boasts 3 megawatts of solar power, less than Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.
In order to avoid this fate Saudi Arabia is seeking investors to back its $109 billion plan to create a solar sector capable of providing 30 percent of its electricity by 2032.
According to Maher al- Odan, a consultant at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (Ka-care), the plan involves developing 41,000 megawatts of solar power within two decades. 25,000 MW will be from solar thermal plants, using huge heliostatic mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays onto a central tower that heats a fluid to drives a turbine; and 16,000 MW will be in the form of photovoltaic panels.
Al-Odan states, “we are not only looking for building solar plants. We want to run a sustainable solar energy sector that will become a driver for the domestic energy for years to come.”
Khalid al-Suliman, vice president of Ka-care, said that an extra 21,000 megawatts of power will be added in the form of nuclear, wind, and geothermal.
Saudi Arabia hopes that their ambitious plans will help them to reduce their domestic oil consumption by as much as 523,000 barrels a day over the next 20 years.
Logan Goldie-Scot, an analyst at New Energy Finance in London, said that, “the Saudi Arabian government has a powerful incentive to diversify its energy mix to reduce dependence on oil. 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.”
The plans are expected to be approved later this year, with the first installations of 1,100 megawatts of PV and 900 megawatts of solar thermal being completed in the first quarter of 2013.