Saudi Arabia to build five solar power stations

The new plants aim to find alternatives and environment-friendly electricity resources

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Saudi Arabia will build solar power stations in five regions by the end 2015.

To be built by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), the new plants aim to find alternatives and environment-friendly electricity resources.

The move comes after the city announced plans to generate power from a landfill in Jeddah. The city developed a national renewable energy atlas established in 2013 through a comprehensive network to solar monitoring and wind measuring.

The efforts will be followed with the establishment of a nuclear plant for peaceful purposes, mainly power production.

A source in KACARE said it received a request from the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) to set up solar-powered stations in Qaisomah (Eastern Province), Rafha (Northern Borders), Wadi Al-Dawaser(Riyadh), Mahd Al-Dahab (Madinah) and Sharourah (Najran) and that all necessary approvals have been completed to begin the project.

He noted that KACARE has also been allotted the required lands for the projects and would begin receiving bids for the construction of these stations, beginning with the station at Mahd Al-Dahab.

“KACARE has conducted detailed studies for the integration of renewable energy, electricity-generating power stations with SEC network to ensure the continuity of power supply and the experiment will be applied to other cities as needed by SEC,” he said.

KACARE has also expedited its steps toward the construction of the first nuclear power station for peaceful purposes to produce electricity and to utilize the available renewable energy sources in the kingdom.

KACARE has also signed an agreement with Jeddah Company for Development and Urbanization to produce electricity from Jeddah waste dump site. The project is expected to start at the beginning of 2015 and will produce between 5–10 megawatts of electricity.

Saudi Arabia announced last year a program to build 17 nuclear reactors by 2030 at a cost of more than $100 billion to meet electricity demand.

Solar power costs have fallen dramatically over the last five years, thanks to lower module prices, lower balance of system costs and increased competition at the development and EPC level. Financing costs have also decreased as investors recognize the low-risk profile of solar assets. As a result, solar power is now cheaper than most alternative power sources.

“For systems with the right economies of scale – 10 MegaWatt (MW) and above – solar power can now be generated at between $70 and $100/MWh. That price is more than four times lower than in 2009,” according to Thierry Lepercq, founder and president of France-based Solairedirect, a world leader in the development of large photovoltaic (PV) power plants with low levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

Within this price range, Saudi Arabia could offer some of the lowest LCOE levels, according to Lepercq.
“Today in Saudi Arabia, it is possible to reach a solar LCOE of between $70/MWh in the higher irradiation/elevation areas in the western part of the kingdom and around $90/MWh in the Gulf area,” he said.

With such competitive costs, the Saudi solar market has been growing steadily. Earlier this year, Solar Frontier completed the 1 MW CPV power plant at the Nofa Equestrian Resort, near Riyadh. And in the next few months, Saudi Aramco’s KAPSARC II project that will extend their existing solar plant from 3.5 MW to 5.3 MW should also come online.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014.

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