Tuesday, May 15, 2012

them what's got, shall get, them what's not, shall lose...,

thenational | One of the world's biggest oil producers and consumers has launched a renewable energy programme that may make Riyadh a new global hub for clean power.

In 2010, Saudi Arabia made a huge splash on the international stage when Ali Al Naimi, the oil minister, announced that "Saudi Arabia aspires to export as much solar energy in the future as it exports oil now".

Observers were not impressed. They claimed it was simply not realistic. To achieve this, Saudi Arabia would need to produce and export as much as half the world's total annual installed capacity of solar energy. It could never happen. Or could it?

Less than two years later, the kingdom has hit back at its critics by launching the most ambitious solar programme the world has ever seen.

Under the stewardship of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (Ka-care), it has unveiled a detailed programme that will see it generate 41 gigawatts of solar energy over the next 20 years.

Assuming that the policy-makers in Riyadh are able to stick to their timetable, by 2032 about a quarter of the country's electricity will be produced using solar energy.

Ka-care has also set bold plans to build wind, geothermal, waste-to-energy and nuclear energy plants. This huge undertaking, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, is set to make Riyadh a global hub for clean energy investments. It would be a huge leap forward for Saudi Arabia, given that today it is among the world's top five biggest polluters on a per capita basis.

The immediate benefit of this new policy is oil savings. Saudi Arabia currently burns almost 1 million barrels of hydrocarbons each day for domestic power generation. This includes some 600,000 barrels per day of its coveted crude oil. Alarmingly, this flow is expected to rise by about 10 per cent annually.

Oil supplied to power plants domestically at the subsidised price of US$4 per barrel is oil that could otherwise have been sold on international markets at a much higher price. The Saudi Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Agency estimates the country loses at least Dh50 billion ($13.61bn) annually by selling oil domestically compared to what it would fetch internationally.

With its renewable energy policy now in place, the kingdom will be able to start satisfying its unparalleled thirst for power through solar-generated rather than oil-generated electricity.

Concentrated solar power plants will be installed to meet winter demand while photovoltaic power plants will be erected to crunch peak-time usage during the summer months. Each megawatt of solar power installed will be able to meet the annual electricity needs of some 50 single-family homes.

Another major benefit is job creation. Today, some 60 per cent of Saudi nationals are under 25. These youths will be looking for jobs soon. By building a world-class clean energy sector, the kingdom will ensure a steady supply of new jobs.

According to the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform, every megawatt of solar power installed creates about 50 jobs in research, manufacturing, installation, and distribution activities.

In other words, by rolling out 41 gigawatts, the kingdom will help to create, both directly and indirectly, some 2 million new jobs.


Sabrinabee said...

This is forward thinking. I don't get why those who are capable are not seeking to get in on the alternative energy market rather than lobbying the government here to maintain the status quo. There is money to be had on either side.

CNu said...

Saudis taking a page straight out of Black Empire. My only reaction to this is, however, what took them so long? Sun in the desert is conspicuously more abundant than oil in the ground.

Big Don said...

 There are big problems with the desert.  Sand/dust accumulations require constant cleaning - you wanna clean a zillion Saudi acres of solar "windows," or reflectors a few times per year?  Also desert windstorms sandblast optical surfaces, permanent damage.  Security is a problem - a Saudi desert's worth of electrical hookup is a lot of copper to patrol/protect.  Good grief, Seattle Light Rail just had 70,000 pounds of copper cable stolen from right under their noses ----> 

CNu said...

If I were the Saudis, and clearly I'm not, I would focus nearly exclusively on solar concentrators, stirling motors, and supercooled capacitor storage - and forget about the photovoltaics.

John Kurman said...

I suspect you will see something closer to room temperature superconductors within the next ten years - either coming from the spintronics field, or from the rice wine/rust chemistry experiments. Iron superoxides, if crafted correctly, are very promising. Then, of course, there is the nickel/molybdenum/nitride families that can give platinum and gold catalysts a run for their monies. We just may finally be entering the golden age of chemistry. And then, of course, there are the metamaterials applied to phononics - superefficient heat concentrators and insulators that could make today's stuff look Stone Age. Lots of room for improvements in the solar concentrator area.

CNu said...

I take for granted you're already up on this http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/materials_genome_initiative-final.pdf

The major metropolitan supercooled capacitance flywheels have been around for a while now, though you won't find a shred of information about them on these interwebs because they're used to pump quite secret weapon systems - that'd be part of the package going-in to/for the saudis for reciprocal strategic advantage.

Dale Asberry said...

Actually, Don has nailed this one on the head. The damage to the reflecting surfaces is a real issue... losing even a small percentage significantly impacts energy produced.

John Kurman said...

I was not up on that, thanks for the heads up.

CNu said...

lol, really?!?!?!?!

Dood, BD has nailed a photovoltaic constraint from 20 years ago on the head.

1. Contemporary systems have active and stow configurations - in the event of haboob - you temporarily stow the reflective surfaces.

2. Polymer laminates can be deployed in these circumstances with shockingly durable moisture and abrasion resistance.


Big Don said...

In the desert, any mechanism with moving parts (e.g., active - stow and/or steerable arrays) is gonna have trouble with sand in the bearings etc ----> 

arnach said...

"supercooled capacitor storage/supercooled capacitance flywheels" = ??? References, please!

Dale Asberry said...

Yeah, surprisingly, really. I remember seeing a study mentioned on Green Car Congress about the lifecycle costs which I remember cleaning and repairing those mirrors (made to very exacting precision) required significant human intervention and expense. Also the total EROEI was very close to zero. And, as Don didn't mention photovoltaic, I assumed the use of molten salt Stirling systems. I don't know if laminates were considered in the calculations. The stow systems are also prone to breakdown and not just due to the sand in the bearings issue.

Overall, these systems are very complex, require significant manual intervention,  are prone to failure, and make nice easy targets for militaries and criminals.

CNu said...

Try grid-scale SMES and bedrock to see if anything flows toward and down the rabbit hole