Saudi Arabia looks to NREL for solar monitoring expertise.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working with the U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for training and expertise in measuring its solar resource. (Excerpt of an article in Phys.org by Bill Scanlon).
Nine Saudi engineers spent nine days at NREL last month, studying and discussing topics as theoretical as Ångström’s law and the scatter-absorption ratio for the atmospheric effects on solar radiation, and as practical as the effect of sandstorms on solar panels. NREL experts also engaged the Saudi staff with topics including waste-to-energy, geothermal technologies, calibrations, and solar resource forecasting.
NREL and its partner Battelle will support the installation of more than 50 monitoring stations in the Middle East kingdom this year to measure the solar resource and gauge the best spots for solar power plants and will also train local Saudis to operate and maintain the instruments and stations.
It’s a crucial part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to spend billions of dollars over the next two decades to install more than 50 gigawatts of renewable power in the country and meet at least 30% of its electricity needs with solar energy by 2032. That’s more gigawatts of renewable energy than were installed in the entire world as of 2012.
The overarching goal is to double electricity capacity by 2030 and have half of that energy originate from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The kingdom is expected to write a number of large contracts in 2013 alone.
Why Saudi Arabia? Why does a nation that has huge oil reserves want to become a leader in renewable energy?
“Saudi Arabia is determined to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons,” said Wail Bamhair, the project manager for the Saudi team that visited NREL. “Renewable energy isn’t just an option, but absolutely necessary. We have the means to build renewable energy, and we need to do it.”
Because Saudi Arabia is lacking in coal and natural gas, it uses a tremendous amount of energy to desalinate water and heat turbines to bring electricity to homes and businesses. Electricity is particularly in high demand during the Saudi summer when temperatures routinely top 110 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioners are rumbling. Economists have suggested that a big move into renewable energy can strengthen Saudi Arabia’s economy and free up millions of extra barrels of oil for export. Bamhair said that while Saudi Arabia has a lot of sun, it also has challenges such as a variable climate, sandstorms, and even the occasional snowstorm in the northern regions. He shared photos he took of a sandstorm that in a few short minutes plunged an afternoon into darkness along a busy thoroughfare near the capital, Riyadh.
“We are working hand-in-hand with experts from NREL and Battelle who have these amazing minds,” Bamhair said. “We are looking for them to build our human capacity. We are here to see, to learn, and to transfer the knowledge.”
Forty years ago, Saudi Arabia had a population of about 5 million mostly nomadic people. Now, it’s home to 27.5 million people, and most live in cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.
Concentrating Solar Power to Play Critical Role
PV panels convert photons from the sun directly into electrons for electricity, but only work when the sun is shining. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the sun’s heat. This thermal energy can then be used to drive a steam turbine that produces electricity.
CSP can store that heat in molten salts for up to 15 hours and can thus team with PV to help bring electricity to homes and businesses when it’s most needed – in the evening hours when the sun has set, but the appliances, TVs, and air conditioners are still in demand. NREL’s recent paper on that capacity, Enabling Greater Penetration of Solar Power via Use of CSP with Thermal Energy StoragePDF, has sparked renewed interest in the two solar technologies sharing the load.
“The first project – installing the monitoring stations – is important for the CSP piece, too, because CSP depends on knowing the measure of clean-sky radiation,” NREL’s Scott Huffman said.
NREL will be overseeing the installation of the solar monitoring stations. The K.A.CARE Renewable Energy Atlas will be ready for access by late summer, with the full monitoring network in place before the end of the year.
- Solar Wealth in Oil-Rich Saudi Arabia (cleantechsolutions.wordpress.com)
- Saudi Arabia to spend $109 billion on renewable energy projects (nuclear-news.net)
- Value in concentrating solar power to add to electric grid calculated (sciencedaily.com)
- Saudi Arabia Looks To NREL For Solar Monitoring Expertise (cleantechnica.com)
- How Valuable is Concentrating Solar Power to the Grid? (spectrum.ieee.org)
- NREL quantifies significant value in concentrating solar power (esciencenews.com)
- Saudi Arabia Says Coronavirus Not Spreading (eurasiareview.com)