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Solar state of mind
In a region with thousands of hours of sunshine a year, the solar energy industry is in its infancy. Can Saudi Arabia lead the way in harnessing a new source of energy?
February 11, 2010 10:36 by Sarah Abdullah
Despite these initiatives, Bashrahil says he remains skeptical. “We need to build more solar thermal power plants, using flat plate collectors, parabolic trough, reflecting mirrors, as well as photovoltaic, in order to reach a break-even point where it will be feasible,” he said.
But can solar energy be integrated along with conventional power plants? This is what Arabian Qudra, a subsidiary of the Abunayyan Group in Saudi Arabia has been testing.
“We are working on solar as a system integrator, and as well on conventional power plants,” says Alexandre Allegue, the business development manager for renewable energy at Arabian Qudra/Acwa Holding.
“We started the solar activity within Acwa holding, and Acwa Power International and more than 6,000 megawatt of power and 2.23 million cubic meters per day of desalinated water has been produced,” Allegue said.
“We have conducted several studies on the feasibility of solar energy in the kingdom through our company Sun & Life, a solar equipment manufacturer and evaluated the technology to be deployed in such a harsh environment, focusing on producing the most power at the lowest cost,” he said.
“Most of the time people are not comparing apples to apples when they evaluate the levelized electricity costs of solar energy versus fossil fuels. To be fair, we shall incorporate all cost components involved in a fully transparent way without subsidies,” he said. “It would be unfair to compare the costs of solar energy without subsidies with the actual costs of fossil fuels, which is artificially low here and completely subsidized.”
This is just one of many problems when it comes to assessing the feasibility of solar energy: The price of the fuel isn’t included in the generation costs, and the electricity prices are extremely high during peak demand.
Allegue also says that due to Saudi Arabia’s intense solar irradiation that if solar energy was subsidized the same way as fossil fuels are, photovoltaics would become very affordable.