A report from international energy consultants AT Kearney, quoted in the The Saudi, said that the oil-rich Middle East has the potential to become a solar “boom center” within ten years, creating 100,000 jobs and able to export $90 billion a year from solar projects. The World Bank appears to think so too. Last year it announced plans to invest $5.5 billion in the region to develop solar projects in the region. And there are signs that the wealthiest nation in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is waking up to this potential for a peak-free energy source.
Last year, the Saudi electricity regulator, ECRA’s Abdullah Al-Shehri said he hopes to get 10% of the kingdom’s electricity from solar by 2020. Demand in the Kingdom is rising at an unsustainable 8% a year – so he better move fast. Part of the damand crunch comes from Saudi use of oil to desalinate water. Last year, as peaks loomed, mention was made of using solar for desalination instead.
Last week, a $1 billion solar joint venture was announced between South Korea and Saudi Arabia, that would bring the first ever solar factory to Saudi Arabia, that would make polysilicon, the essential ingredient of traditional solar cells.
The Korean engineering company KCC Corp. and the Saudi Mutajadedah Energy Co (MEC) will work jointly on the $380 million engineering, procuring and construction contract to build the $1 billion factory, with assistance from Hyundai Engineering Co, forming a Saudi-based joint venture company, Polysilicon Technology Company.
Initial estimates are that their jointly owned factory will be producing 3,350 tonnes of solar grade polysilicon when it opens in 2014. By 2017, it will be able to produce 12,000 tonnes every year of the material that can turn long hours of desert sunlight into electricity.
The partnership will probably work out well. Saudi Arabia successfully partnered with Western nations, creating gigantic partnership corporations like Saudi Aramco, to extract its vast riches of oil wealth that we now know are finite. Now, perhaps sensibly, it is turning to an Eastern nation that is among world solar leaders, to develop a new energy source that won’t ever run out.
Image: Bruce Irving
More on solar and oil in Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia’s First Solar Installation Goes Online
Saudi Arabia to Replace Oil With Sunpower for Desalination Plants
It Must be Peak Oil Driving Saudis to Solar