Clean Power Saudia Arabia solar power

Published on September 4th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Saudi Arabia Solar Jumps On Diesel-Killer Bandwagon

September 4th, 2014 by  

Uh-oh, here comes trouble. Just when pressure is mounting on Congress to permit exports of US crude oil, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making a big move into solar power. The idea behind Saudi Arabia solar is to wean the country’s electrical grid off its heavy reliance on diesel generators, particularly imported diesel. The shrinking of Saudi diesel demand is a big tell that the global shift to renewable energy is kicking into high gear.

The news is particularly interesting because Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region have also been making big investments in petroleum refineries, aiming at the same target: reducing imported diesel as well as gasoline.

Saudia Arabia solar power

Courtesy of SASIA

Solar Power: The Diesel-Killer

We’re calling solar power the diesel-killer because that’s what multiple Nobel Prize nominee, sustainability innovator, “impact investor,” and former candidate for President of Israel Yosef Abramowitz calls it.

We had a chance to visit with Abramowitz in Israel last year to learn about the solar company he co-founded, Arava Power Company. Part of the company’s plan is to reduce or eliminate the use of diesel generators in the tourist city of Haifa and throughout the region, with a network of kibbutz-based solar farms.

The other part involves developing an exportable business model for Israeli solar technology, with the aim of knocking off diesel in promising markets like South Africa.

Saudi Arabia Solar Power

Well, it looks like Arava Power is going to have some competition. While the big push for Saudi Arabia solar has a domestic focus, a surge in diesel-killing solar demand in that nation will help solar companies develop economies of scale and boost their position in the global solar market.

Behind the Saudi Arabia solar boom is the Saudi Arabia Solar Industry Association (SASIA), which is on a mission to make the Kingdom “one of the most energy advantaged countries in the world.”

The country faces a multiplicity of problems stemming from its reliance on diesel generators for air conditioning among other uses. According to SASIA, almost 25 percent of the Saudi grid is powered by diesel and the Kingdom spends $1 billion and up on imported diesel.

Many of those generators are located in remote areas, so transporting diesel generator fuel also adds to the country’s fossil load.

On top of that, the country’s grid operators are way behind when it comes to connecting remote areas (distributed solar, much?), which is gumming up local economies.

To ice the solar Schadenfreude cake, diesel generators tend to hiccup just when you need them the most, namely, when the temperature heats up.

SASIA has its second Desert Solar Saudi Arabia conference in the works later this month, so you’re going to hear a lot more about the country’s solar potential.

For now, here’s a tidbit from leading solar company SunEdison founder Jigar Shah (as cited by SASIA):

Saudi Arabia could easily be one of the largest solar markets in the world. The economics are clear, a pilot program has been completed, and deep policy research has been done.

Here’s another two cents from Dr. Raed Bkayrat, VP for Saudi Arabia at First Solar:

Saudi Arabia has all the factors needed to achieve a low levelized cost of electricity compared to other mature solar markets — factors such as access to low-cost finance, land availability, solar irradiance resource, well-developed construction companies, EPCs and O&M providers.

A boom in Saudi Arabia solar will also have a ripple effect on the country’s ability to boost its water resources with solar powered desalination.

Saudi Arabia And Diesel Imports

It might seem like something of an oxymoron for an oil-rich country to depend on imported petroleum products, but there you have it. As recently as last summer, Saudi Arabia diesel imports hit record highs.

That’s all set to change but quick, and not just on account of solar. While kicking the diesel habit domestically, Saudi Arabia is also looking to stir up the global diesel market.


The country’s massive new Jubail Refinery is expected to provide for domestic diesel demand while also supplying Europe. India currently supplies both the Saudi Arabian and European markets, so all of that Indian diesel is going to have to find a home somewhere else.

Adding another twist to the saga, reports that demand for diesel in Europe is collapsing. That can’t be good news for US oil companies seeking gold in the export market, so hold on to your hats.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • JamesWimberley

    Saudi Arabia is big on announcements of gigawatt targets, conferences, and “deep policy research”. Not so hot on getting solar panels up, something which Mauretania can manage.

    • Yes, Alex Jones nearly admitted that Saudi Arabia assassins began in 1901 and (is likely) they killed President William McKinley after returning from a speech at Niagara Falls about free energy and Nikola Tesla.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist.

        That sort of stuff has no place on this site.

        McKinley was shot by an American born anarchist of Polish decent.

        Leon Czolgosz was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1873, the son of Polish immigrants.[4] The Czolgosz family moved a number of times as Paul Czolgosz, Leon’s father, sought work throughout the Midwest.[5] As an adult, Leon Czolgosz worked in a Cleveland factory until he lost his job in a labor dispute in 1893. Thereafter, he worked irregularly and attended political and religious meetings, trying to understand the reasons for the economic turmoil of the Panic of 1893. In so doing, he became interested in anarchism.[6] By 1901, this movement was feared in the United States—New York’s highest court had ruled that the act of identifying oneself as an anarchist in front of an audience was a breach of the peace. Anarchists had taken a toll in Europe of a half-dozen officials and members of royal houses,[7] and had been blamed for the 1886 Haymarket bombing in Chicago.[8]


        • Bob_Wallace

          Here’s some info on your boy, Alex.

          “Dubbed “the most paranoid man in America” by Rolling Stone and the “king of conspiracy” by CNN, radio talk show host, “documentary”-maker and webmaster Alex Jones is notorious for epic rants about “New World Order” plots for world government, enforced eugenics, secret internment camps, militarized police and behind-the-scenes control by a global corporate cabal. In his estimation, the only way to avert this dystopian future is if true patriots resist before it is too late, and his hundreds of thousands of acolytes are taking heed, building bunkers, hoarding food and investing in precious metals – and, in some cases, resorting to violence.”

          “Jones has also been sharply critical of same-sex marriage, tying it in a convoluted way to globalist aims and, like many religious-right organizations, pedophilia. In a June 2013 exchange with a British blogger, filmed during a protest of the Bilderberg Group that was put up on YouTube, he answered this question: “I just want to ask your views on same sex marriage. Do you think that was the idea of the gay community in their respective countries, or do you think Bilderberg has a connection to it?”

          Jones responded: “Same sex marriage is sold as a civil right. And I believe that people as individuals – I’m a libertarian — have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. And I’m not obsessed with the subject like people on different sides of the debate are. But clearly, from the eugenicist/globalist view, and they’ve written textbooks on it, you can look them up, they [globalists] want to encourage the breakdown of the family, because the family is where people owe their allegiance. That’s why they want to get rid of God. Not because they’re atheists, but because they want the state to be God. And so they are taking the rights of an ancient, unified program of marriage and they are breaking it. So it’s a major revolution, and they’re destroying the dictionary and the definition. And now they’re on television in the U.S. saying, by the way, now your kids belong to the state.”

          Racist, homophobic, promoter of gold selling companies.

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