Part of Saudia Arabia’s 41 GW timeline emerges

Energy strategies to replace some of the oil being used for electricity generation in the MENA region have been picking up pace in recent months. In the latest move, Bloomberg has reported that Saudi Arabia has announced a timeline for the first of its 41 GW of solar projects planned.

According to Bloomberg, Khalid al-Suliman, the vice president and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy has told the Saudi Press Agency that the first solar project will begin construction in early next year, and will be completed in 2015. The project’s construction will begin once official approval is received.

The 41 GW of solar Saudia Arabia plans would require US$109 billion in investment. 16 GW is planned to be photovoltaic plants, with the remainder CSP.

The case for a vast increase in photovoltaic capacity in the MENA region is becoming increasingly persuasive, as module and BOS costs continue to fall.

Head of the Fraunhofer ISE research institute Eicke Weber told pv magazine that the advantage of the situation in countries such as Saudia Arabia, is that no additional electricity storage is needed to see photovoltaics rolled out. "The Saudis could make billions of dollars in profit by replacing the oil burning electric power plants by PV," said Weber, "and the beauty is they can do this without even installing any additional storage or other items, because they have at the moment the power generation capacity based on oil."

Weber said that talks with energy developers in the country are becoming more interested in solar photovotlaics and increasingly "asking the right questions" about what needs to be done to ramp up capacity.

Manufacturers too are looking more closely at the MENA region. Global glass giant Saint Gobain announced last month that it has plans to develop a CIGS module facility in Saudia Arabia. Avancis technology would be used in the fab. First Solar has also had success in the region, only days after the Saint Gobain announcement, it announced that it had been selected to build out the first 13 MW stage of the 1 GW Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum power plant, planned for Dubai.

Solarpraxis AG held its "Solar Industry Summit – Middle East 2012," on November 14 in Dubai.