Saudi Arabia is well known for being a leading exporter of crude oil, but soon enough it may also add substantial solar to its energy profile. The country is planning to have a solar capacity of 41,000 megawatts by 2032. How will it grow so much in just twenty years?
The country has begun a $109-billion plan to finance its solar endeavors, and is seeking outside investors. First Solar Inc. and SunPower Corp. are two of the larger companies mentioned so far as potential investors. However, it has been said they would probably need to do their manufacturing within the country. Otherwise, their efforts may not be profitable, and even if they have a local presence, profits will likely be lower than for American or European installations.
The majority of the 41,000 megawatts will likely be concentrated solar thermal power plants, which focus sunlight to very high temperatures in order to heat a fluid and then power a turbine. About 25,000 megawatts might be provided by this type of technology, with the remaining 16,000 coming from photovoltaic panels. Solar thermal plants have been successfully constructed in places like Spain, and they tend to have large energy generation capacities. (They also employ many people during the construction phases.)
Saudi Arabia is motivated to engage more with renewable energy due to a rising population and because the current practice of generating electricity using crude oil is reducing the income the country could make by exporting it. Currently, it only has about 50 megawatts of solar power, so increasing to 41,000 in the next twenty years is a massive shift.
Image Credit: Baptiste Marcel, Public Domain
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