Saudi Arabia, the country of oil, turns to renewable energies

04/05/2021 at 09:32 CEST

The Saudi government has already launched its ambitious National Renewable Energy Plan, which anticipates the decline of oil as the main source of energy. Huge photovoltaic fields and a hydrogen factory are his most prominent projects, and they are already underway. Several Spanish companies in the sector have submitted their offers in open tenders to award contracts.

In Saudi Arabia there are no longer just sandy deserts. There are also deserts formed by solar panels whose vision extends to the horizon and occupies everything that the eye can see.

The kingdom of Saud, the quintessential emblem of the oil industry, which for decades has set the world’s energy pace as one of the largest hydrocarbon powers, has now decided to switch to renewable energies.

The government launched an ambitious strategic plan a few years ago (the National Renewable Energy Program) with the aim of addressing the already indisputable decline in oil, a decline that, although not yet clearly perceptible, will undoubtedly be so in very few years.

Saudi Arabia is betting heavily on two major fronts: photovoltaic energy and hydrogen, the gas of which it wants to become the world’s largest exporter.

The Bloomberg chain recently reported that the kingdom is building a plant budgeted at $ 5 billion to create hydrogen fuel destined for export.

Hydrogen is considered the most ecological alternative to replace hydrocarbons in a multitude of uses, including air, sea and land transport. Its only residue is water vapor.

The Helios factory, which is how this factory will be called, will have the capacity to generate 650 tons of hydrogen per day, a volume that will allow the Saudi kingdom to get ahead in a market that, like all others, will be characterized by great competition when it consolidates. The country does not want to be caught off guard by the new race looming on the immediate horizon to replace oil and gas.

The factory will be located in Neom, the city halfway between fantasy and science fiction that Saudi Arabia is building in the middle of the desert and wants to become the most modern and advanced on the planet.

The city has to run on renewable energy and billions of euros are being invested in it. Neom will be the paradise of technology: suffice it to say that some of its activities will be the creation of artificial clouds to regulate the climate and a widespread use of artificial intelligence.

The method you will use will be electrolysis with sea water, a system in which experts still see many drawbacks, although discoveries continue to be made that pave the way for this technique. It consists of taking sea water to separate its H2O molecules into hydrogen on the one hand and oxygen on the other.

The entire factory will use, for its operation, renewable energies, based mainly on the sun and wind, inexhaustible raw material in the immense Saudi deserts.

Now, for the production of hydrogen to really compete with oil, there is a long way to go. Suffice it to say that, according to Bloomberg, the 650 tons per day expected to be obtained is equivalent to 15,000 barrels of oil per day. But the one that the country currently exports no less than seven million barrels a day.

Solar power: 200 gigawatts by 2030

In any case, the country of the sheikhs has already embarked on a bet that it does not want to lose. The other major action front is photovoltaic energy.

The Saudi government has already started construction of the world’s largest solar energy complex. The project will have several phases, the first of which has already started. The process includes the construction of two plants, which will have a power of 7.2 gigawatts

This macro solar project in Saudi Arabia plans to reach an installed capacity of no less than 200 gigawatts by 2030, which is equivalent to almost two-thirds of the world’s capacity in this type of clean and renewable energy.

The Japanese bank Softbank will finance this project, which could involve an investment of 45,000 million dollars in the next five years.

Spain aspires to get on the bandwagon of the Saudi energy revolution.

A few days ago, the Saudi Arabia Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) published a list of pre-qualified bidders for the 1.2 GW solar power tender it launched in late January.

The list includes 49 bidders, including some of the most prominent in the global solar industry. The Spanish companies Solarpack, Acciona, Abener (a subsidiary of Abengoa) and TSK will participate, as well as the French company EDF and Total Solar.

There are also German, Chinese, Canadian, South Korean, and Japanese corporations, as well as Saudis, Americans, and Indonesians.

Arabia will use the third round of the kingdom’s National Renewable Energy Program to select developers to build four solar power projects, which will have generation capacities of 80 MW, 120 MW, 300 MW and 700 MW, respectively.

The Saudi government has stated that selected projects must have at least 17% local content.

In March, the Renewable Energy Project Development Office said the second round of the program – designed to allocate 1.5 GW of large-scale solar capacity – attracted 250 bidders.

In the first round of the procurement program, REPDO allocated 300 MW of solar capacity to a single facility: the Sakaka solar project, which is already in operation.

“We will be a new Germany when it comes to renewable energy & rdquor;, said the Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman

Reference article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-07/saudi-arabia-s-plan-to-rule-700-billion-hydrogen-market

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