Unleashing Solar Power in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer of petroleum in the Middle East, with domestic consumption reaching 4 million barrels per day in 2012 out of daily production of 10 million barrels. Saudi Arabia’s primary energy consumption per capita is four times higher than the world average. Strong industrial growth, subsidized oil prices, increasing energy demand for electricity and transportation is leading to a growing clamor for oil in the country. The total energy consumption in the Kingdom is rapidly rising at an average rate of about 6 percent per annum.

Solar Energy Prospects 

To meet the rising local energy demand, Saudi Arabia plans to increase generating capacity to 120 GW by 2020. Residential sector holds the biggest share of total energy consumption, accounting for as much as 80 percent of the electricity usage. Despite being the leading oil producer as well as consumer, Saudi Arabia is showing deep interest in the development of large projects for tapping its rich renewable energy potential, especially solar power. The country plans to invest more than $100 billion in clean energy projects to meet its objective of getting one-third of electricity requirements from alternative energy resources.

There is a growing Interest in utilization of solar energy in Saudi Arabia as the country is blessed with abundant solar flux throughout the year. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest solar irradiation in the world, estimated at approximately 2,200 thermal kWh of solar radiation per square meter. The country is strategically located near the Sun Belt, not to mention wide availability of empty stretches of desert that may accommodate solar power generating infrastructure. Moreover, vast deposits of sand can be used in the manufacture of silicon PV cells which makes Saudi Arabia an attractive location for both CSP and PV power generation. 

Promising Developments

The first initiative from the government was the establishment of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) which is the official agency in-charge of promoting clean energy in the Kingdom. The kingdom is planning to add an additional 41 GW of solar power by 2032, with 16 GW to be generated by photovoltaics and 25 GW by solar thermal power plants. One of the major achievements was the establishment of 3.5MW PV project at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center. 

Concentrated solar power is another interesting option for Saudi Arabia due to its strong dependence on desalination plants to meet its water requirement. Waste heat of a CSP power plant can be used to power seawater desalination projects. Recently Saudi Electric Company has selected CSP to produce electricity with 550MW Duba 1 project, an integrated Solar Combined Cycle Power Plant located 50km north of Duba near Tuba. The plant is designed to integrate a parabolic trough unit of around 20 to 30MW. 

Keeping in view its regional dominance, Saudi Arabia can play a vital role in the popularization of solar energy in the MENA region. Solar energy program may not only augment oil-wealth of the Kingdom, but also transform Saudi Arabia into a net solar power exporter in the near future. 

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Renewable Energy in Morocco

Morocco, being one of largest energy importer in MENA, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. In 2012, Morocco spent around US$10 billion on all energy imports (crude oil and oil products, coal, natural gas and electricity). Annual electricity consumption in Morocco was 33.5 TWh in 2014, and is steadily increasing at a rate of around 7 percent each year. 

The major sources of alternative energy in Morocco are solar and wind. Wind energy potential is excellent in vast parts in the northern and southern regions, with the annual average wind speed exceeding 9 m/s at 40 meters elevation. As far as solar is concerned, the country experiences 3000 hours per year of annual sunshine equivalent to 5.3 kWh/m²/day. In Morocco, the total installed renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower) was approximately 787MW at the end of year 2015. The Moroccan Government has set up an ambitious target of meeting 42% of its energy requirements using renewable resources (2GW solar and 2GW wind) by 2020. Morocco is investing more than USD13 billion in developing its renewable energy sector, which will reduce its dependence on imported energy carriers to a great extent. 

Morocco Solar Program

Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy plan with investment of USD 9billion. The Moroccan Solar Plan is regarded as a milestone on the country’s path towards a secure and sustainable energy supply which is clean, green and affordable. The aim of the plan is to generate 2,000 megawatts (or 2 gigawatts) of solar power by the year 2020 by building mega-scale solar power projects at five location — Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate — with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms. Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, is also a key player in Mediterranean Solar Plan and Desertec Industrial Initiative. 

Construction is underway at the 500MW Solar Power Complex at Ouarzazate, the world’s largest solar power plant. To be built with investment of an estimated Euros 2.3 billion, the project is the first one to be implemented under the Moroccan Solar Plan. The Ouarzazate Solar Complex, also known as Noor CSP with a total capacity of 580 MW will produce an estimated output of 1.2 TWh/year to meet power demand of more than 1 million population when it is completed in 2018. The first phase of Ouarzazate solar project, known as Noor 1 CSP, is a 160-MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant which will be switched on in Febrary 2016. Around $3.9bn has been invested in the Ouarzazate solar complex, including $1bn from the German investment bank KfW, $596m from the European Investment Bank and $400m from the World Bank.

The Ain Beni Mather Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station, commissioned in 2011, is one of the most promising solar power projects in Africa.  The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and has the production capacity of 472 MWe. The total cost of the project was US$544 million including US$43.2 million in grant financing from the GEF, two loans from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a total of US$371.8 million and a loan of US$ 129 million from Spain’s Instituto de Credito Official (ICO).

In 2010, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture, was set up specifically to implement these projects.  Its mandate is to implement the overall project and to coordinate and to supervise other activities related to this initiative. Stakeholders of the Agency include the Hassan II Fund For Economic & Social Development, Energetic Investment Company and the Office National de l’Electricité (ONE). The Solar Plan is backed by Germany, with funding being provided by German Environment Ministry (BMU) and KfW Entwicklungsbank while GIZ is engaged in skills and capacity-building for industry.

Morocco Wind Program

Morocco has huge wind energy potential due to it 3,500 km coast line and average wind speeds between 6 and 11 m/s. Regions near the Atlantic coast, such as Essaouira, Tangier and Tetouan (with average annual average wind speeds between 9.5 and 11 m/s at 40 metres) and Tarfaya, Laayoune, Dakhla, and Taza (with annual average wind speed between 7.5 and 9.5 m/s at 40 metres) has excellent wind power potential. According to a study by CDER and GTZ, the total potential for wind power in Morocco is estimated at around 7,936 TWh per year, which would be equivalent to about 2,600 GW. Morocco’s total installed wind power capacity at the end of 2015 was an impressive 787MW.

 

The first wind farm in Morocco was installed in 2000 with a capacity of 50.4 MW in El Koudia El Baida (Tlat Taghramt – Province of Tetouan), situated 17km from the town of Fnidek. The annual production of the project is around 200 GWh, accounting for 1% of the national annual electricity consumption. In 2007, 60MW Amogdoul wind farm, on Cap Sim south of Essaouira, came online. This wind farm  was realized by the national utility ONE and  is producing around 210 GWh/year. Another landmark project is 140 MW at Allak, El Haoud and Beni Mejmel, near Tangier and Tetouan which was commissioned in 2010 with annual production of 526 GWh per annum.

Morocco has a strong pipeline of wind power projects to realize its  objective of 2GW of wind power by 2020. Africa’s largest windfarm, at Tarfaya in Southwestern Morocco, having installed capacity of 300MW become operational in 2014. The Tarfaya windfarm, built at a cost of around $700 million has 131 turbines will meet the power requirements of several hundred thousands people and will reduce 900,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

EnergiPro Initiative

Morocco’s national utility ONE is developing almost half of the planned projects while the other half is contributed by private investment through the “EnergiPro” initiative, which encourages industrial players to reduce their production costs by producing their own energy with projects up to 50 MW. As part of this initiative, ONE guarantees access to the national grid, and the purchase of any excess electricity produced at an incentive tariff, with different tariffs for each project.

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Solar Energy in Morocco

Morocco, being the largest energy importer in North Africa, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. Morocco is already spending over USD 3billion a year on fuel and electricity imports and is experiencing power demand growth of 6.5 per cent a year.

The National Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan was launched in 2008 which aims to develop renewable energy to meet 15 percent of the country’s energy demand and to increase the use of energy-saving methods.  According to the Moroccan Ministry of Energy and Mining, the total installed capacity of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) was approximately 300MW in 2011.

The Moroccan Government has already achieved its target of supplying around 8% of total primary energy from renewables by 2012 which includes energy generation, conversion and distribution. Morocco is planning USD 13billion expansion of wind, solar and hydroelectric power generation capacity which would catapult the share of renewables in the energy mix to 42% by the year 2020, with solar, wind and hydro each contributing 14%.

Moroccan Solar Plan

Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy plan with investment of USD 9billion. The Moroccan Solar Plan is regarded as a milestone on the country’s path towards a secure and sustainable energy supply. The aim of the plan is to generate 2,000 megawatts (or 2 gigawatts) of solar power by the year 2020 by building mega-scale solar power projects at five location — Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate — with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms.

The first plant, under the Moroccan Solar Plan, will be commissioned in 2014, and the entire project is expected to be complete in 2019. Once completed, the solar project is expected to provide almost one-fifth of Morocco’s annual electricity generation. Morocco, the only African country to have a power cable link to Europe, is also a key player in Mediterranean Solar Plan and Desertec Industrial Initiative. The Desertec Concept aims to build CSP plants to supply renewable energy from MENA region to European countries by using high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.

In 2010, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), a public-private venture, was set up specifically to implement these projects.  Its mandate is to implement the overall project and to coordinate and to supervise other activities related to this initiative. Stakeholders of the Agency include the Hassan II Fund For Economic & Social Development, Energetic Investment Company and the Office National de l’Electricité (ONE). The Solar Plan is backed by Germany, with funding being provided by German Environment Ministry (BMU) and KfW Entwicklungsbank while GIZ is engaged in skills and capacity-building for industry.

Ain Beni Mather Project

The Ain Beni Mather Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station is one of the most promising solar power projects in Africa.  The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and is expected to reach production capacity of 250MW by the end of 2012. African Development Bank, in partnership with the Global Environment Facility and Morocco's National Electric Authority (ONE), is financing approximately two-thirds of the cost of the plant, or about 200 million Euros.

Ain Beni Mather plant, which is now supplying electricity to the Moroccan grid, uses a cutting-edge design, combining a large array of 224 parabolic mirror collectors concentrating sun energy and boosting the steam output needed to produce electricity. This area enjoys abundant sunshine and has enough water to cool the power station and clean the solar mirrors. It is close to both the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline and the high voltage grid that will help to transmit the generated power.

Ouarzazate Solar Complex

The 500MW Phase-One Solar Power Complex at Ouarzazate is the world’s largest solar thermal power plant. To be built with investment of an estimated Euros 2.3 billion, the project is the first one to be implemented under the Moroccan Solar Plan. The Ouarzazate Solar Complex, with a total capacity of 500 MW, will come on-stream in 2015 and produce an estimated output of 1.2 TWh/year to meet local demand. The first phase will be a 160-MW parabolic trough facility while photovoltaic modules and CSP towers will be used in later phases.