Saudi Arabia, one of the most developing countries in the world is gifted with massive natural resources, in the form of oil. It is the country which has actually made its GDP rise high because of exporting oil to other parts of the country. However, with the rise in demand for oil in the local market itself, it needs to decrease the overall oil export quantity. The increasing population has given a threatening alarm to the nation that very soon they will be facing the scenario of oil scarcity. This will hamper growth as well as exports of the nation. In such a scenario, Saudi Arabia has already started taking initiatives to divert to other renewable energy sources like solar, wind and nuclear energy. The potential in the earth's wind and solar powers is more than enough to make significant changes and to strategically contribute to the energy supply in the kingdom. The best forms of renewable energy are wind, water and solar energy. Of course the country cannot depend on water; the most natural renewable energy sources which are freely available here are wind and solar energy. The power grid system in the state has provided sufficient electricity to roughly 80% of the total population existing in the industrial as well as residential areas of the nation. However there is abundance of wind and solar energy due to its climatic conditions. Saudi Arabia has two vast windy regions along the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea coastal areas which can be utilised for wind energy source. The technological and monetary viability of wind energy utilization in this country has not yet been completely exploited. Solar energy fits in the requirement very well which can help it to preserve its most useful resource “OIL”. It is the most abundant resource and along with it, nuclear energy is another good option. In the long run, nuclear energy would be harmful as compared to burning of oil and coal. So, renewable energy is the demand of the time which will help environment as well as will contribute in the overall development of the nation.
Alternative Power sources applicable in Saudi Arabia
A region of over 2.3 million square Kms with population of over 27 million, Saudi Arabia stands tall as one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world. Being blessed with enormous natural resources in the form of oil, this 13th largest country in the world is relatively rich when compared to other nations of its size and density. It is the most common source of power station operation and naturally operates with oil or coal as the source of energy. With predictions of enormous foreign investments to be made in the country by corporate and partner governments, it is fair enough that 80% of the total power produced is diverted or consumed by the territory capitals and centers of all Industries. With fall in exports there would also be a down turn in growth and development of the nation. Therefore, the only workable idea for the betterment of the nation would be to conserve oil and make the maximum possible use of the abundantly available renewable sources of energy like solar and wind energy.
It is a well known fact that the national revenue of Saudi Arabia gains maximum from its capacity to export oil all throughout the world. But, with the rise in local demand for oil for various power extraction reasons and increasing consumption there is a possibility that in the near future, Saudi Arabia might be forced to decrease the export quantity to meet its domestic necessities. Besides Saudi Arabia is a principal oil manufacturer, this country is far behind to make use of newer and latest technologies for judicious and wise use of renewable sources of energy.
As per Hashem Yamani, Director of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, “The demand for electricity is steadily increasing in the nation. In 2010 it was 40 Gigawatt and is expected to reach 120 Gigawatt by 2032.” Thus, Saudi Arabia has initiated various steps to divert from Oil based energy to various renewable energy sources mainly solar, wind and nuclear energy. As part of the initiative, Arabia has already initiated discussions with countries that have the latest technology like United Kingdom, Korea, United States, France etc.
An initiative to move to the renewable energy source was a big step indeed. It was marked with the inauguration of the 500 KW solar plants on Farasan Island. The project started in July 2011 and finally came into operation in October 2011. It uses CIS solar Thin Film technology from solar Frontier of Japan. Discussions are going on to expand the facility from 500 kW to 8 megawatt.
Talking all about energy, we first need to understand what energy is. It is the force that allows the formation, movement or deformation of matter. Resources can be modified and transferred for their utilization in various forms. Man has been transforming and using energy depending on a number of utility factors. Today, we produce goods that are biodegradable and can be recycled so that we can save energy for our coming generations. They produce fewer emissions and hence keep the environment clean and fresh. Petroleum derived fuels are easy to store as compared to the fossil fuels like propane, natural gas, etc.
Transforming the energy source is a huge investment in itself and there are many if’s and but’s in the implementation of these sources. Some of the most common non crude oil resources include Biogas, Hydrogen, etc.; The sad part is that renewable energy provides only around 7% of the world’s total energy needs. One very important factor that cannot be neglected is the increasing population. The demands for fuel and energy have been thoroughly increasing and sooner or later they may run out.
As per Mark z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering Stanford,” Wind, Water and Solar energy are the best forms of renewable energy. They contribute considerably towards reducing global warming, air pollution etc. Apart from them, the most promising raw energy sources as per our study are found to be geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaic’s, wave and hydroelectric sources. Considering the geological conditions of Saudi Arabia, using any form of water for producing energy can be ruled out as the country faces acute scarcity of water. But what cannot be ruled out is its abundance of Wind and Solar exposure due to the prevalent Hot Climatic conditions.
Wind energy is one of the most formidable forms of renewable alternate source of energy available in the country. The work on wind energy in the country refers to way back in 1986 with the introduction of a wind atlas by studying the data of speed of wind from 20different locations. Shafiqur Rehman, a researcher at the KFUPM Dhahran presented in his conference, an energy output of 30MW capability wind farms that are already installed in 5 coastal locations. They are calculated in provisions of unadjusted sources of energy, delivered renewable energy and gross energy of total capacity of wind farm. These are achieved by making use of wind turbines of 1000, 1500 and 600 kW. The author also emphasized on the long term speed as these sites vary from 4.63 m/s at ground level to 5.0 m/s at 50m above ground level. This achievement is considered to be a breakthrough in the efficient extraction of wind power to generate energy sources.
Apart from these, there were several research studies done to understand the true prospective of Wind Energy as a potential source of energy in Saudi Arabia. It was observed that the monthly average speed of wind that blows in Dhahran range from 4.46 to 6.89 m/s, while the annual maximum achievable wind power prospective per unit region of the wind course was estimated to be 543 kWh/m2/year. Certainly Wind Power gives a powerful source of renewable energy, but it cannot support the entire energy requirement of a country as big as Saudi Arabia. The mean annual wind speed in Arabian Gulf and the areas around Red Sea coastal regions surpasses 9 knots (16.7 kmph). Precisely, it ranges from 14 to 22 kmph over the Arabian Gulf and 16 to 19 kmph over Red Sea coastal areas. The application of wind energy in Saudi Arabia is nil except the recent installations by KACST as part of a feasibility study of wind energy utilization in Saudi Arabia. Some regions are selected for possible installation of both small and large wind energy conversion systems; like Yenbo and Al-Wajh on the Red Sea coast, Dhahran on the Arabian Gulf coast and Quaisumah in the north east of the Kingdom. Unit capital costs ($/kW) to estimate the cost of electricity produced, in cents/kWh, it is concluded that further reduction in the manufacturers unit capital cost is still required to enable wind energy to compete with other conventional energy sources. Hence, there was a need of introducing other strong alternate power mechanisms. Solar energy fitted the requirement quite well.
Cursed with a hot climatic condition, Saudi Arabia is majorly set on a goal to turn the curse into a blessing (2200 thermal kilowatt hours (kWh) per square meter). The country is all set to commence a major thrust into solar energy to drive power in order to preserve its most imperative export “OIL”. It has been observed that the accessible Solar Radiation Atlas in Saudi Arabia does not eventually cover all areas of the nation. Additionally, it does not contain the reliable information that is required for solar-energy applications, as it is based on the data collected by old and uncalibrated instruments; and the magnitude of global solar radiation has changed due to global weather variations and the environmental impacts of the Gulf War. However, efficient consumption of solar energy in Saudi Arabia hasn’t made any rational advancement possibly due to below listed hindrances:
i) The ease of use of oil and its abundance, its supremacy over solar energy and its comparatively little cost.
ii) The prominent effect of dust, which in many parts is responsible for reducing solar energy up to 10—20%.
iii) Also, the accessibility of law-making bodies for electricity and oil production and non-accessibility of similar bodies for solar energy production.
Though application of solar energy has been started rapidly since 1960’s but still it is far behind to reach top level in the world.
In early 2012, the country is likely to declare a project that would enable it to generate 10% of its power requirements from Sun by year 2020 and up to 20% requirement by 2030. The country is targeting to become the leader in this by overtaking the current technology giants Italy and France. It is calculated that Saudi Arabia receives an incredible 2200 KWH per square meter of solar energy due to its climatic conditions and is by far the most abundant natural resource available in the country. It is now left on time to watch the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) and the Meteorological and Environment protection administration (MEPA) and to translate these mathematical calculations and matrices into power generation.
Although it is commonly rated as one of the potential supplements of power supply, this category has its own divisions of analytical ideologies. Without doubt nuclear energy is the most potential supplement to abandon the use of oil and high scale generation of power supply and other energy mechanisms. Some analysis indicate that in the long run, this would be even more harmful then burning of OIL and coal, and would contribute to the key problem of global warming even more then the major sources of today.
All countries that use nuclear technology have unfortunately, fatally underestimated complete expenditure of nuclear power. Nuclear power will also not be capable enough to try to win over renewable sources of energies exclusive of enormous state aid. One third of electricity that is being produced in Europe today by nuclear means is solely due to the complimentary market situations created by the government by spending huge amounts on research and other related activities.
The huge costs involved–apparent as well as hidden–in waste handling and decommissioning of the currently operating plants, and making provisions for accidents resulting in a substantial load on the upcoming economies and generations. While such differences in opinion will always sustain, it is certainly up to the Saudi Arabian Government to analyze the pros and cons of the form and chalk out its investment appropriately. As of today, the country plans to install 16 nuclear reactors, spending a whooping 7 billion on each plant. This 16 reactor KSA plan is a part of strategy of the country to be a regional exporter of electricity as well as meeting its own needs self sufficiently. Studies favour the reactor installation locations to be along Red Sea or Persian Sea. The Nuclear Research Institute indicated some ecological liabilities that can be mended.
The three core fields of remediation are: (1) decommissioning of previous outdated amenities such as special sewage system, decay tanks and RAW treatment of technology (2) dispensation of RAW from taking to pieces of nuclear services (3) removal of exhausted fuel from explored nuclear reactors managed by the NRI. The ultimate objective is to cure the green liabilities and reduce the possible harmful effects on the surroundings.
The knowledge acquired in the department of R&D in the region of Saudi Arabia has fortunately been in the stream of sun’s energy and has been truly priceless. Several international joint sessions have helped in the organization of a chain of self-regulating projects going on solar energy through the ERI, and many other independent users spread across the country. Saudi Arabia is one among the richest nations and out of its vast and valuable treasure of energy sources, oil became the prime source. But with the changing lifestyle and needs of the people, most of the oil produced is being utilized within the nation itself. This hampered the exports and undoubtedly the economic growth of the nation. The only way out is to cut down on the use of fossil fuels and utilize renewable and natural energy sources to the maximum possible extent. We can use a combination of fossil and natural fuels for our changing user needs. A diverse energy pool that provides the strength and realizes the work is the need of the hour. One should be accountable and should realize that their use of resources and energy should not destroy or disturb the environment in any way. Renewable energy is the call of the hour looking at our utilization not forgetting the increasing population. Small and intermediate solar energy uses in the territory of Saudi Arabia are officially and reasonably realistic and should be equally supported and encouraged by the nation’s government. Interaction between regional renewable research centres and local research centres and industries must to be increased. On the other hand, the likelihood of wind power consumption in the country has not yet been fully exploited. Successful exploitation of renewable energy sources also needs a full control of government bodies. Nuclear energy is one form which every nation hesitates to use while it also wants to be on the charts and show its power to the world. Renewable energy is hence considered the best form of energy utilization that not only serves the environment but also helps in the economic development of a nation, so awareness amid the common people about the use and significance of use of renewable energy sources has to be widely increased. In all developing nations, sincere efforts should be invested towards resulting uses of those renewable systems that have already been urbanized in other developed countries. Moreover, training programs and promotional activities regarding the use of renewable energy sources must be integrated on a large scale.
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