Saudi Arabia targets 41 GW of solar by 2032

The oil-rich country is planning to place more focus on renewable energy generation. In addition to more solar power, it intends to add wind, geothermal, waste-to-energy and nuclear plants to its energy mix in the future. The program, said to be worth tens of millions of dollars, aims to "catapult Saudi Arabia into the group of global leaders in renewable-energy development."

Of the 41 GW of solar, photovoltaics is expected to comprise 16 GW, while concentrated solar power (CSP) will encompass 25 GW. "The CSP plants, with their higher capacity factor than PV, are foreseen as a bridge between base-load technologies (including geothermal, waste-to-energy and nuclear) and PV, which will provide coverage for daytime demand," explained Apricum, a strategy consulting and transaction advisory firm specialized in renewable energy.

KA-CARE announced its plans to turn Saudi Arabia into "the Kingdom of Sustainable Energy" at the Saudi Solar Energy Forum in Riyadh, yesterday, May 8. In a statement released, Apricum said, "The main objectives of the program are a reduction in oil burned for power production as well as the establishment of a local solar industry and the creation of jobs."

Detailed roadmap

In addition to its installation targets, the government entity issued a roadmap by which the country intends to achieve its goals. It is to be started "immediately".

Under the roadmap, Saudi Arabia intends to introduce a minimum of two competitive bidding rounds, which would see around five GW of utility-scale solar projects installed. The first bidding round is expected to include 1.1 GW of photovoltaics and 900 megawatts (MW) of CSP. The first tenders are currently being prepared and are scheduled for release in early 2013.

Meanwhile, the second round will see 1.3 GW of photovoltaics and 1.2 GW of CSP targeted. "The tender rounds will be followed by a feed-in-tariff scheme such as Germany’s successful program," continued the statement. Fixed local content requirements are expected to also be introduced.

Project sizes will be varied, continued Apricum, with the minimum size set at five MW. It added, "Bids will be evaluated on both price per kWh of electricity supplied and qualitative factors, most prominent among them local content and track record in solar project development.

"The competitive bidding will be preceded by a stakeholder engagement phase to collect feedback from the market, starting immediately, leading to a draft request for proposals to be released in Q3/2012."

In the European Photovoltaic Industry Association’s (EPIA¬ís) latest "Global Market Outlook for photovoltaics until 2016", the association confirms that Saudi Arabia is a "promising" solar market, due to the growing awareness and interest from policymakers.