The GCC region is well on its way to becoming one of the world’s major green energy producers, with solar energy likely to account for a large share of its power generation by 2017. A recently published report said that he Gulf countries have already put in the pipeline some $155 billion worth of solar power installation projects.
With hydrocarbon reserves starting to get depleted, and as oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) continue their uptrend, governments have been exploring alternative sources of power. Analysts have said that solar energy is a rich resource in the region and can be cost-effective to use.
As of June last year, the prices of oil in the region were near $100 per barrel and LNG prices increased to $18 per MMBTU (million metric British thermal units), and have been under pressure due to demand from Japan, following the closure of nuclear power plants in the country.
“Direct radiation exceeding 6 kilowatt hours per square meter per day in many regions [in the Middle East and North Africa] makes for awesome solar potential. Recent decreases in the price 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,” the report said.
Dubai has made public its plans to build a $3.2 billion facility called Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the biggest project announced to date in the region. When completed by 2030, the proposed park, which is currently under construction and will span 48 square kilometers, will have a solar capacity of 1 gigawatt.
Another major project, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, which already houses a 10-megawatt photovoltaic plant and a pilot solar thermal plant, is envisioned to get its electricity needs entirely from renewable energy. The planned city is expected to be the future home of 45,000 to 50,000 residents and 1,500 companies.
Abu Dhabi seeks to generate 7 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Masdar has announced its plan to invest up to Dh6 billion in alternative energy schemes alongside the UK’s Green Investment Bank.
Saudi Arabia also intends to double its electricity capacity by installing 54-gigawatt renewable energy by 2032. Of the planned capacity, 41GW will be sourced from solar energy. Qatar and Kuwait have also set their eyes on renewable energy sources.
“To meet the goals that the GCC have set themselves means expertise will be needed from the international solar power industry to deal with the difficulties involved in construction in desert terrain, including dust, high winds and transmission requirements,” said the report.