Solar Energy in KSA
- Background material leading up to Thesis
History of Solar Energy
The rapid evolution of the earth has seen human beings use various sources of energy – both renewable and non-renewable. Surprisingly, a few sources of energy have been used in ancient and modern generations, and a perfect example is solar energy. The use of solar energy in the two different generations has not been common due to the lack of understanding of what solar energy is and how to harness it. Experts define solar energy as a form of radiant energy that is produced by the sun (Asefeso, 2011). Over the years, there have been debates of how and where the energy that continuously radiates from the sun comes from. Irrefutably, the sun is similar to other stars as it is made of gases that combine, and through the process of nuclear fusion, generate energy that has over the years facilitated most human activities worldwide. During the 7th century, human beings had begun harnessing solar energy, and this was made possible by the use of magnifying glasses that concentrated the rays of the sun into beams (Philibert et al, 2011). Early man capitalized on this ancient technology to make fire. Several years later saw the inception of a solar boiler by a scientist known as Charles Greely Abbott as well as a steam-powered engine that relied on solar energy. Today, technological advancements and developments have seen the introduction of solar collectors that facilitate the collection and channeling of solar energy to various uses and platforms. For instance, solar panels trap and store solar energy that is used in the production of electricity in the world today. More people are shifting to the use of solar energy as it is cheap, readily available and renewable (Akella et al, 2009).
History of Solar Energy in KSA
The use of solar energy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) can be traced back to the early 1970s. Myriads of solar projects are evident in KSA today, and this implies that several individuals in the kingdom still depend on solar energy for electricity generation despite the dominance of the use of coal and natural gas as sources of energy. By 2010, the kingdom’s leadership in an effort to encourage the use of substantial, alternative, and renewable sources of energy; expressed its support for solar energy development projects (Al-Saleh et al, 2008). The stride towards the proprietorship of more solar projects in the country was catalyzed by the establishment of the King Abdulla City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A CARE). The establishment of the latter came up after the issuance of an order by the then king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Al Saud in April 2010. K.A CARE was one of the projects that saw the KSA ranked among the leading countries that have attracted much attention from both the regional and international solar community. In fact, the project helped to contribute to the kingdom’s power generation, which was initially dependent on oil and natural gas. In contrast to oil and natural gas, solar energy was cheap and readily available, and this helped reduced the amount of capital invested into power generation in the KSA. Currently, the KSA’s economy owes its rapid economic rise to the embrace of the use of solar energy. It is estimated that by 2032, the KSA will have installed slightly over 41 GW of solar capacity, and this will be composed of 16 GW photovoltaic cells and 25 GW of solar thermal (Al-Saleh et al, 2008).
The benefits of improving the Solar Energy industry in KSA
As seen in other regions of the world, especially in the Western world, the development and improvement of the Solar Energy industry in KSA will have several benefits to the individuals and the kingdom’s economy.
- Economic benefits
The development and improvement of solar energy industries will trigger the emergence of more renewable energy plants that will create over 15,000 job opportunities for the citizens of Saudi Arabia. Through this, the kingdom will have made several steps forward in its bid to eradicate unemployment, and this will be one of the economic benefits of solar energy in the KSA (El-Katiri, 2014). Moreover, the improvement of KSA’s Solar Energy industry will play an integral role in meeting the ever-increasing national demand for electric power. Since the embrace of the use of solar energy, electric power generation has increased drastically, and this has triggered the rise of more industries and companies that have contributed to the positive growth of the national economy. The lower power cost that will accompany the use of solar energy after the improvement of the industry will help address the issue of economic inequality in the KSA (Goswami, 2006). A larger percentage of the kingdom’s population live in poverty and are unable to afford the high cost of power generated from oil and natural gas. However, the coming years will see most of the poor households in KSA served with electricity generated from solar energy because it is cheap and readily available (El-Katiri & Husain, 2014). The kingdom’s leadership will also capitalize on solar energy to initiate better and effective distribution of power, and this will have positive impacts on the national economy of KSA.
- Environmental Benefits
The use of various forms of energy has sparked debates worldwide because of the negative impacts that the environment is exposed to. Sources of energy such as coal result in the release of carbon dioxide and other emissions that affect the environment negatively. In contrast to coal, the use and improvement of the solar energy industry in KSA will have myriads of environmental benefits. First, the manufacture, installation, as well as the maintenance of solar energy will result in the production of insignificant or no carbon dioxide emissions that could lead to global warming and end up affecting the environment (Grover, 2007). Second, unlike the use of fossils, solar energy in KSA will be convenient for use as it will result in minimal or zero pollution of the environment (Kalogirou, 2004). The consistent use of fossil fuels in KSA has resulted in water and air pollution that has greatly affected human survival due to breathing problems, heart attacks, as well as cancer that humans are exposed. In the coming years, such challenges will be addressed through improvement of the solar energy industry that will result in zero or minimal environmental pollution.
- International Benefits
Apart from its economic and environmental benefits, the improvement of the solar industry in KSA will be of great benefit to the international community in various ways. First, other countries especially those neighboring KSA will benefit from a vast and constant supply of renewable energy through importation. Second, other countries are expected to initiate development projects to facilitate the production and supply of solar energy after benchmarks of the situation in KSA. This will see stabilization in the global energy prices as countries will not be forced to rely on oil, natural gas and other expensive sources of energy (International Congress on Energy Efficiency and Energy-Related Materials et al, 2014).
- Money that will be saved
What is expected to be saved after finishing the projects?
Currently, the generation of electricity in KSA is greatly dependent on oil, and this could be costly to the kingdom in the long term. There is fear that continuous use of oil for the generation of electricity could lead to the exhaustion of oil. This is an insinuation that KSA will lose a significant amount of potential revenue that could be generated through the exportation of oil. In a bid to prevent such challenges in future, the kingdom has rolled out over ten solar projects that are aimed at shifting electricity generation from the use of oil to the use of solar energy. Apparently, the solar energy projects in place target at saving substantial amounts of crude oil for export (Almasoud & Gandayh, 2014). Currently, the amount of crude oil exported to other countries is low, and this is owed to the fact that KSA uses huge amounts of oil to generate power for domestic consumption. An ever-increasing demand in power could see the kingdom use more barrels of oil for power generation, thus reducing the amount of oil exported to other countries significantly (Almasoud & Gandayh, 2014).
When it is expected to be done
The over ten solar projects rolled out in KSA between 2010 and 2018 are expected to be completed by 2032. After the completion of the projects, it is expected that solar energy will play an integral role in the production of 30% of the kingdom’s electricity (Almasoud & Gandayh, 2014).
How much will it cost?
The solar projects initiated by the government of KSA are among the largest projects in the Kingdom with approximately $109 billion channeled to the project (Almasoud & Gandayh, 2014). The huge capital invested in the project is expected to engineer its completion by 2032. The capital is expected to fund the development of 41,000 megawatts of solar power (25,000 MW of solar thermal plants and 16,000 photovoltaic panels).
- The expected environmental benefits of the solar project
As mentioned earlier, the solar energy project initiated by the government of KSA is expected to have several positive impacts or benefits on the environment. A discussion of some of the benefits of the project on the environment is as follows.
- Less air pollution
In contrast to other sources of energy such as fossils, solar energy that will facilitate the generation of 30% of the electricity of KSA will result in insignificant or no pollution of the environment (Mansouri et al, 2013). The use of fossil fuels for the generation of power involves combustion that results in the emission of smoke and other gases that causes pollution of the air. The situation during the production of electricity using solar energy is different. For the later, the energy from the sun is trapped in solar panels and stored in photovoltaic cells that then transform the energy into electrical energy. Arguably, no combustion is involved in the process, and this underscores the fact that the solar energy project in place in KSA will cause less or no air pollution (Tsoutsos et al, 2005).
- Renewable source of energy
It should be noted that renewable energy is that which is inexhaustible and can naturally be replenished, and a perfect example, in this case, is solar energy (Boyle, 2004). Currently, KSA depends on oil for the generation of electric power to meet the ever-increasing national demand. However, the use of oil has been accompanied by a plethora of disadvantages. First, the amount of oil that KSA exports to other countries has been compromised in the recent years, and this is a threat to the kingdom’s economic growth. Second, there are arguments that continuous use of oil for the generation of electricity could see the exhaustion of the kingdom’s oil fields in future (Dincer, 1999). Thus, the kingdom’s leadership has capitalized on the use of solar energy to facilitate the production of electricity, as it is renewable (Boyle, 2004). In other words, solar energy is inexhaustible hence could not affect the kingdom’s economic growth in the future.
- Benefits to other countries
After the completion of the solar energy project in KSA by 2032, it is expected that several countries will benefit from the project. First, a substantial amount of the 41,000 MW that will be produced from the project could be exported to neighboring countries, and this could help boost the economic development of other countries. Thus, some of the countries that are likely to benefit from the project include Yemen, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan, and Iraq (Jeffreys & Oxford Business Group, 2011). Essentially, the completion of the solar project will be a major boost of KSA’s local industries, and this could enhance its relationship with foreign countries such as Japan and USA. That is to say, to some extent, Japan and USA will be among the beneficiaries of the solar energy project in KSA. It is also expected that KSA will export its solar energy to European countries, and this will see the transmission cables reach Europe via either Africa or Bulgaria. A successful completion of the project could see KSA export between 3.5 and 10 gigawatts of solar energy to other countries. This is an implication that the kingdom will generate a lot of revenue because of the project. Although the cost of rolling out the plan of exporting solar energy will be high, it is expected that the returns that KSA will get will be high. Moreover, it is expected that solar energy project will strengthen the relationships between KSA and other countries such as France, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, and others (Taher & Hajjar, 2014).
As mentioned earlier, an estimated $109 billion is required to facilitate the successful completion of the project. Apparently, economically developed countries such as USA and Russia will be required to provide financial support to facilitate the completion of the project in KSA (Taher & Hajjar, 2014). The entry of France will also be crucial to the successful completion of the project. It should also be noted that with the support of the global economic superpowers, the strengthening of the relationship between countries will be easier.
Briefly, it should be remembered that the modern generation has seen most countries shift to the use of solar energy because of the advantages it has over other sources of energy. One of the countries that have initiated projects to facilitate the generation of electricity from solar energy is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Arguably, KSA is known to have initiated over ten solar energy projects that are expected to be complete by 2032. One of the major bodies behind the initiation of the solar energy projects is the K.A CARE. The latter’s efforts in seeing the KSA shift from the use of oil to solar energy for electricity generation saw the KSA ranked among the leading countries that have attracted much attention from the both the regional and international solar community. In fact, the project will help contribute to the kingdom’s power generation, which was initially dependent on oil and natural gas. In contrast to oil and natural gas, solar energy is cheap and readily available and this will help reduce the amount of capital invested into power generation in the KSA. There are myriads of benefits that the projects in place are expected to have at domestic and international levels. At a domestic level, the solar energy projects in progress are expected to create several job opportunities for the citizens of KSA. Besides, the solar energy projects are also expected to boost the economy of the kingdom positively. Internationally, it is expected that countries, especially the neighboring countries such as Bahrain, Yemen, UAE, and Qatar will benefit from the exportation of solar energy by the government of KSA. European countries are also likely to benefit from the ongoing project, and this is owed to the fact that the government of KSA has the thought of laying transmission cables to Europe via North Africa or Bulgaria to facilitate the exportation of solar energy.
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