Saudi Arabia shines a light on future of solar power

Updated 04 April 2019

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.


Pakistani doctor who died of COVID-19 applauded as hero in Saudi Arabia

Pakistani surgeon Dr. Naeem Khalid Chaudhry can be seen with his family at Jeddah’s Corniche on January 11, 2020. He died while working in Saudi Arabia after contracting the coronavirus. (Supplied)
Updated 29 sec ago

Pakistani doctor who died of COVID-19 applauded as hero in Saudi Arabia

  • Dr. Naeem Khalid Chaudhry will be remembered for his illustrious contributions to the fields of medicine and social work, says Pakistan’s consul general

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s diaspora community and medical professionals in Saudi Arabia have paid tribute to a Pakistani surgeon, Dr. Naeem Khalid Chaudhry, who became the first medic in the Kingdom to lose his life to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), two days ago in Makkah, where he worked in the at Hira General Hospital.

Chaudhry was 46 years old and hailed from the northeastern district of Narowal in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He moved to Saudi Arabia in 2014 with his family to work as a surgeon in Islam’s holiest city. He is survived by his wife and three daughters who also live in Makkah.

Tooba Chaudhry, the wife of the deceased doctor who also works at the hospital as a radiologist, said that her husband kept on performing his duties throughout the pandemic, and showed mild symptoms on May 14.

“He had mild fever and complained of fatigue on May 14, and it was established that he was suffering from COVID-19 after a medical test the same day. We started treating him and he showed signs of improvement until the beginning of this month. Then suddenly his condition deteriorated,” she told Arab News on Friday.

“My three daughters and I have also tested positive for COVID-19, but we are now stable. Our symptoms have disappeared, but the hospital has not called us for a second test,” she added.

“Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and officials at the consulate general in Jeddah, called me and assured full support to my family,” she continued. “The Saudi officials also allowed me to bid farewell to my husband in a fully protective outfit.”

Pakistan’s consul general in Jeddah, Khalid Majid, said the deceased doctor would be remembered as an indefatigable philanthropist for his illustrious contributions to the fields of medicine and social work.

“He was an important member of the medical team fighting against COVID-19 in the Makkah region. The Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia has indeed lost a sincere compatriot who served humanity with zeal and sincerity,” he told Arab News on Friday.

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki also prayed for the Pakistani surgeon, while recognizing his services to the Kingdom.

“I offer my condolences and prayers for the family of the Pakistani surgeon Naeem Khalid Chaudhry, who moved to the mercy of Allah Almighty due to his infection with COVID-19, while performing his duty on the frontline against pandemic at Hira General Hospital in Makkah,” he said in a Twitter post.

Dr. Muhammad Irfan, Chaudhry’s colleague and close friend, told Arab News that his coworker performed his duties tirelessly and with utmost dedication.

“I was with him in the surgical department for the last six years. He was a close friend and very good surgeon. He never showed a sign of hesitation while treating COVID-19 patients,” he said.

“The whole hospital is in a state of shock, since Dr. Chaudhry was very popular due to his professionalism,” Dr. Muhammad Saleem, an intensive care unit specialist at the hospital, told Arab News.

“He got COVID-19 infection two weeks back while performing hospital duties. We used the best resources for his recovery, but unfortunately he did not survive,” he added.

Dr. Asad Ullah Roomi, president of the Pakistan Doctors’ Group in the Kingdom, said all Pakistani medical professionals were at the forefront of this fight against the pandemic along with their Saudi colleagues.

“Dr. Chaudhry was a very hardworking and skillful surgeon. He was also academically involved in the training of his juniors,” he told Arab News, adding: “He was also an active contributor to a Pakistani doctors’ charity initiative, and provided free medical services to underprivileged individuals in the Makkah region.”

Dr. Zia Ullah Dawar, a public health specialist at the Saudi Ministry of Health in Jeddah, remembered Dr. Chaudhry in these words: “He was a thorough professional who never hesitated from his duty despite all its dangers.”

He also revealed that the Pakistani surgeon served five times in the southwestern border city of Jazan on the request of the health ministry.

“Dr. Chaudhry used to help the Pakistani community in Makkah and provided free services to the deserving people,” Dawar continued. “He was about to be promoted in about a month from a surgical specialist to a consultant.”