Desert Solar to showcase Saudi Arabia's grand plan

Saudi Arabia unveiled ambitious renewable energy plans earlier this year, including a 6 GW solar target by 2020. The achievement of that goal will require the installation of around 10,000 solar panels a day, according to the Saudi Arabia Solar Industry Association (SASIA).

How exactly Saudi Arabia hopes to manage that will be one of the hot topics at the upcoming Desert Solar in Saudi Arabia conference, which will take place in the Saudi capital at the Sheraton Riyadh Hotel & Towers on Nov. 13.

Around 100 participants, including more than 30 leading international experts, are expected to attend the event to explore partnership opportunities.

Desert Solar is part of the country’s international Solar PV Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia that will see 20 high-level PV executives visiting the country and meeting with leading stakeholders in the local solar industry, including K.A.CARE and Saudi Aramco, according to SASIA, which is organizing the trade mission and confab along with Netherlands-based Solarplaza.

In addition to offering opportunities to meet with executives and network with global and Saudi PV players, the one-day conference will explore whether solar panels can be twice as cheap by 2020; where in the value chain can costs be pushed down further; and what this all means for the Saudi PV market.

"The Saudi solar downstream industry, such as installers, EPCs and investors can benefit directly," said Henning Wicht, senior director of solar research at IHS, who will be revealing more market perspectives at the Desert Solar conference. "If the Saudi market demands volumes of 1,000 MW and more, PV production is going to happen locally. The market will attract leading producers to invest in local facilities. Very likely it’ll be joint ventures, or partnerships like in other countries."

Wicht will present a forecast of PV module cost based on industry learning curves and discuss best practices in developing solar investments in new markets at the event.

"Saudi Arabia is on the cusp of significant developments in the next three years," SASIA said, pointing out that the country’s annual solar radiation levels of 2,550 kWh per square meter, as well as the vast areas of desert that can host large solar installations and huge deposits of clear sand that can be used to manufacture silicon PV cells, make "the country’s solar future inevitable."

In addition, the country has a well-proven independent power producer framework supported by a strong financing industry and a government-backed solar program — all the necessary ingredients for a booming solar market, according to the trade association. However, it added that "to get involved successfully, a strong local footprint is key, and foreign players are expected to demonstrate long-term commitment."

Yahya Shakweh, vice president at Saudi Arabia’s Advanced Electronics, a Desert Solar sponsor, said: "Such opportunities are best harnessed through partnerships with credible and well-established local players who can add values well-beyond commercial representation."