Saudi Arabia shines a light on future of solar power

Updated 04 April 2019
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Saudi Arabia shines a light on future of solar power

  • A Saudi developer’s plan to harness the sun 24/7 is sparking a renewable energy revolution in the region
  • ACWA Power is the main developer on the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is embracing a new, more efficient way to harness solar power for electricity, inspired by its role as the main developer in one of the world’s largest renewable energy projects, the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai.
Concentrated solar power (CSP), which makes up a large part of the project, has become the new buzzword in sustainable and renewable energy thanks to its ability to store heat and meet electricity demands at night.
The Kingdom will use its experience in the Dubai project as the basis for its own first hybrid project, which is under construction in the northern industrial city of Waad Al-Shamal and will include 50 megawatts (MW) of CSP.
“Saudi Arabia is watching this new project in Dubai in detail as its tariff and scale have attracted the Kingdom’s attention,” said Abdulhameed Al-Muhaidib, director of asset management at Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power, and executive managing director of Dubai-based Noor Energy 1, one of the world’s largest renewable energy plants.
CSP technology is being used as part of the fourth phase of the Dubai project, the largest single-site solar park in the world, with a total capacity of 950 MW, comprising 700 MW from CSP and 250 MW from photovoltaic (PV) solar power.
ACWA Power is working as the main developer, using its experience to help further future CSP projects in the Kingdom.
“I’m sure that in the next phase of Saudi bids there will be CSP components,” said Al-Muhaidib. “It has been announced that 2,700 MW of an upcoming Saudi project will be full CSP, but the detailed timing hasn’t been announced yet. There are more plans for it, and we’re looking forward to working on that.”

The first batch of projects announced by Saudi Arabia has been in wind and PV. Another seven to nine projects are announced for 2019, all of which are PV.
“The reason (for turning to CSP) is very simple — it’s driven by the tariff, where PV and wind have already internationally given a lower tariff and are basically cheaper compared with conventional energy,” Al-Muhaidib said on the sidelines of a recent press conference announcing details of the fourth phase of the Dubai solar park.
“But for the first time, the price for the new CSP technology has gone under double digits, reaching 7.3 cents per kilowatt hour.”
The project is located in Seih Al-Dahal, 50 km south of Dubai, and is expected to be completed by 2030.
Al-Muhaidib explained the difference between CSP and regular PV, whereby electricity is created from electrons in the solar PV panels when the sun hits the panels.
With CSP, sunlight hits a mirror, and is then reflected on to a receiver. In the receiver, a liquid is heated, which drives a steam turbine connected to an electrical power generator.
“It’s a completely different technology because you have to do a heat exchange and (use) steam turbines, a process that makes it more expensive than solar PV,” Al-Muhaidib said.
“The main benefit is storage because you can store heat, while in panels you can’t and lithium batteries are still expensive.”
Large molten salt tanks with a storage capacity of up to 15 hours store the heat and, consequently, allow electricity to be used at night.
Meanwhile, the $4.3 billion phase of the project in Dubai will involve the construction of a 260-meter solar tower, which is now 9 percent complete, providing 320,000 residents with clean energy and a 24-hour power supply from renewable energy.
It will also help save 1.6 million tons of carbon emissions per year. On completion, the solar park will result in a reduction of more than 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
“A very big responsibility lies on us, but it’s a positive challenge and we will be up to the task,” said Mohammed bin Abdullah Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power, at the press conference. “We’ve ensured to set the first block of this project a few months ago, and we’re committed to providing the highest standards when it comes to the environment.
“Both countries have great investments (in this field), and this is one of the most important technical projects in the world,” Abunayyan said.
“Investments in technology are the most (crucial) in today’s world.”
He spoke of a shift in mentality toward renewable energy. “Solar was never considered to be able to produce energy 24 hours a day, and it never had a procedure for storage,” he said.
“But this new project has changed that … The cost is very close or even less than fossil fuels, and we never thought this is something we could achieve.
“Dubai has changed the map of CSP around the world and brought back its competitiveness, while turning it into a fully stable load for a longer time, which wasn’t possible in the past,” Abunayyan said.
Saeed Al-Tayer, managing director and CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, said the project marks a new milestone in recognizing the importance of renewable and clean energy, promoting its use and striking the right balance between development and the environment.
“The solar park will produce 5,000 MW by 2030. The project will cover an area of 44 sq km and achieve several world records, including the world’s lowest CSP cost of electricity, the tallest solar tower in the world, and the largest thermal storage capacity allowing for round-the-clock energy availability,” he said.
“The real challenge we’ve been facing with solar systems, especially clean energy, is storage, but ACWA Power is the best in terms of technical capabilities for the project.”
Renewable energy has an essential role to play in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, as the country looks to diversify its economy and shift away from its dependence on oil.
Dr. Robert Ichord, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, said the Kingdom’s annual electricity growth is
8-10 percent, with estimates that it will rise in the near future as electricity demands potentially double by 2030.
And with two peaks in electricity in Saudi Arabia — one in the day and one at night — Al-Muhaidib said the country needs to prepare itself to ensure that it is able to meet that demand at night.
“This is where CSP will come into play,” he said.
ACWA Power’s contractor is working with several Saudi manufacturers to provide them with knowledge about CSP technology.
“Most of the steel structure for this project is coming from Saudi companies, and there are talks about other components of this project coming from the Kingdom,” Al-Muhaidib said.


INTERVIEW: Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, the prince who wants everyone to be part of Saudi Arabia’s forward trajectory

Updated 25 May 2019
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INTERVIEW: Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal, the prince who wants everyone to be part of Saudi Arabia’s forward trajectory

  • The Saudi royal is a venture capitalist and a key supporter of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Arab News recently got up close and personal with Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, a name that is often associated with successful business, entrepreneurial and humanitarian ventures.

Khaled bin Alwaleed has never conformed to the typical image of what a royal should be like, and he says this was down to his parents.

“It stems from how I grew up and what my parents instilled in me. They really emphasized how important it is to connect with people no matter what position in life they hold.”

He said that his mother used to get on with everyone in their household, from kitchen staff to gardeners, on a very personal level, giving each person importance and inclusion. “That connection — that characteristic — is probably one of the best examples of how I grew up.

“Sometimes I don’t act in the ‘proper’ manner that people expect. I’m here to do what I believe is right, and what I believe is right is being myself.”

He admits that in the past he had struggled with the conflict of how he should act to suit the persona expected of him. 

He admits that he struggled in the past to manage people’s expectations of him.

“I thought I should act in a certain way, do certain things that were expected of me, but were really alien to my personality and what I wanted to do for myself. In the end, what has worked best for me is being as honest and as genuine as possible.”

The Investor 

Prince Khaled founded his holding and investment company, KBW Ventures, in 2014, and he has made it his purpose to invest in a broad range of businesses, from technology start-ups to successful companies.

Prince Khaled doesn’t consider himself a renowned entrepreneur — he says calling him this would steal the thunder from everyone who started from scratch. He thinks of himself as more of a venture capitalist who supports entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Before taking on a project, what he looks for most is the drive, knowledge, and commitment of the entrepreneur. 

“I look at how well they understand how to scale a particular business, and the business itself. It is important to know how well the founder (of the business) knows the industry, the numbers, competition, and how to best showcase their product or service and put it in front of the right audience.”

BIO

Name: Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud

Date of Birth: 21 April 1978

Education: Bachelor in business from the University of New Haven.

Current position: • Founder and CEO of KBW Ventures • Founder and Chairman of KBW Investments.

His advice to local businesses (and this applies to young entrepreneurs, as well) is to do their homework on the industry of the start-up, the potential verticals that exist, scalability, and to assess everything through due diligence before jumping into a project — at least that’s how he runs things.

“We should all want to be part of Saudi’s forward trajectory. My ideal situation is to put Saudi Arabia on the map as having the most successful track record for venture-backed companies. KBW Ventures has thankfully had a very good start but it doesn’t stop there. I want to partner with more Saudis to expose our entrepreneurs and our venture capitalists to international markets and international venture-backed companies. We’re not just an oil-rich country; we’re rich in entrepreneurship, we’re rich in innovation, and hopefully, quickly getting richer in terms of our history with venture-backed companies.”

He thinks the future is in the hands of the youth,  basing this view on how Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has changed things in Saudi Arabia.

“Mohammed bin Salman is the face of Saudi youth and its future — he has mobilized and invigorated the younger generation like no one before. I’ve never seen so many young people looking for a way to support the country and get involved — it is the best time for us as Saudis.”

Prince Khaled with King Salman

Prince Khaled has much more on his agenda, focusing on causes where he can make a difference such as “climate change, sustainability and animal welfare,” he said.

With KBW Ventures, he hopes to act as an ambassador to a healthier, more sustainable society.

The prince is also an enthusiastic humanitarian and vocal vegan, who has chosen to apply his beliefs to his lifestyle first.

“I started as a vegetarian many years ago and gradually transitioned my lifestyle completely; I’ve talked extensively about the health benefits and I think if people even adopt reducetarian measures it is great for the planet and for overall health and wellbeing.”

He said that at this point, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is no longer an option but a necessity. “I really feel the need to incorporate physical activity into my day and it’s matched with clean eating. No matter how busy you are, your health is the most necessary aspect as obviously if that isn’t a priority things fall apart very quickly. I work out daily and I eat well; that’s what fuels me to do what I do.

He has noticed the onslaught of GCC individuals going plant-based. He thinks that they are motivated by a combination of factors: the desire to live healthier and to live more humanely, in terms of being kinder to animals and reducing our damage to the earth. He is fully supportive of the General Sports Authority Chairman Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal with its mission of promoting mass sports participation and working on educating the health care system and citizens in general. “I’m not naïve enough to think the world is going to go vegan, it is not practical. Saudi is a very meat-centric culture; for the Saudi health problems of obesity and heart-related issues, I really encourage everyone to try a reducetarian diet by incorporating more fresh vegetables, legumes, basically just expand your eating horizons.”

 

 

Saudi Humane Society 

Prince Khaled’s latest move on a very resolute chessboard is taking on the role of the presidency at the Saudi Humane Society (Rifq, or SHS) in January 2019. He told Arab News: “I happily accepted the role as I believe I can add value there.”

Acting as one of the first NGOs in Saudi, SHS was dormant for the past few years, he said. Under his leadership, SHS now has two, five and 10-year goals across various tenets. 

SHS will be introducing TNR [Trap-Neuter-Release] programs, as some Saudi cities have issues with strays. 

“This issue wasn’t dealt with humanely in the past, and the important thing is that moving forward we work toward preventing these incidents from happening again. 

The Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, HE Eng. Abdullatif bin Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh, banned animal poisoning; a noteworthy first step in the right direction, followed by TNR.”

SHS will also work with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), on the legislation to prevent the import of exotic animals, as well as with other organizations to deal with exotic animals in Saudi and returning them to the wild.

“We’ll be collaborating with the government on recommendations on how to best operate the sanctuaries, introduce animals back into the wild, and also educate the public on the importance and absolute necessity of biodiversity,” he said.

SHS also led a campaign recruiting young volunteers in different regions of the Kingdom to participate in rescuing animals. Prince Khaled is a firm believer in the youth’s effect on the advancement of society.

“Activating our youth across everything we do is how we really activate Saudi, whether it is for animal welfare or for our work with health and wellness. There has been a slew of volunteers coming to donate their time, effort and their emotion to these animals. We are so blessed to have a relationship with these people, they’re passionate and they really care. They will work on a TNR program in Madina, starting from the university in Taibah where they’ll trap, neuter then relocate the animals in other areas.”

Decoder

Trap-Neuter-Release

A program that traps stray cats, spays or neuters them, and then returns them to where they were found or, if the place isn’t secure, relocates them to a better home.