The Kingdom is adorned with plentiful sunlight throughout the year, and has one of the highest insolation rates in the world. As a result, a major plank of K●A●CARE’s renewable energy program will be the implementation of clean, cost-effective solar energy technologies with the aim of helping meet peak demands, especially during the summer months, by recommending to generate a total of 41GW by 2032.
Under consideration are two forms of solar energy – Photovoltaic (PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
Photovoltaic cells made up into panels enable sunlight to be converted directly into electrical energy. These panels can be combined into fields for direct connection to the national grid using inverters that convert the solar power into a grid-compatible alternating current. The recommended aim is for K●A●CARE to have installed sufficient Photovoltaic capacity by 2032 to be able to generate 16GW of power.
PV’s real benefits are its simplicity, convenience in construction, reliability, maturity, and its cost-effectiveness once in operation hence the consideration given to it being a significant proportion of the Kingdom’s alternative energy requirement. PV panels have been constructed over the years using crystalline silicon, but thin film cells are now playing an increasingly important role and are an area where K●A●CARE seeks to become involved in both their development and manufacture alongside local and international stakeholders, whilst also transferring technical capabilities and skills to Saudi citizens.
The basic principle of CSP, or solar thermal power, is the use of reflector systems to direct solar radiation onto a receiver, frequently atop a solar tower. The concentrated radiation is then transformed into thermal energy for conversion into electricity through the use of turbines. Alternatively, it can be used for desalination and industrial applications. This system also allows for storage of the thermal energy generated so the system can be used for power generation at night.
CSP technology is as yet immature but is undergoing very rapid development. K●A●CARE and its stakeholders aspire to establish a niche market in the sector for Saudi Arabia through technology transfer, research, new product development and the training of a Saudi workforce to high levels of competence. Over time K●A●CARE will establish fields of mirrors and receivers across the Kingdom, improving the cost effectiveness of the process as new developments are introduced. By 2032, it is recommended that CSP will account for 25GW of electricity generated.
In establishing solar energy, and especially CSP, potential exists in the years to come for linking–in to similar facilities being installed in North Africa that seek to supply energy to Europe at certain times of the year.