Scientists in Saudi Arabia push the boundaries of solar power further

Scientists in Saudi Arabia push the boundaries of solar power further
New research by leading Saudi university KAUST has shown promising results in renewable energy by using atmospheric water vapor to cool down solar panels. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 September 2020

Scientists in Saudi Arabia push the boundaries of solar power further

Scientists in Saudi Arabia push the boundaries of solar power further
  • High temperatures during daytime in the Middle East reduce the efficiency of solar PV cells
  • A KAUST project aims to increase solar electricity generation by using atmospheric water vapor

DUBAI: New research by a leading Saudi university has shown promising results in renewable energy by using atmospheric water vapor to cool down solar panels.

The project, of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), has been able to deliver an almost 20 percent increase in electricity generation.

“As the climate crisis worsens, solar energy is believed by many to be the ultimate solution to sustainability,” said Dr. Peng Wang, a KAUST professor who is leading the study. “Photovoltaics (PV) is the most popular way of converting solar energy into electricity.”

According to the latest European PV status report, the global installed capacity will double by 2025 to reach 1,500 gigawatts (GW), and further to 3,000 GW by 2030. “The Middle East is blessed with stable and reliable solar irradiance. Arguably, it is the best quality solar irradiance in the world,” Wang said.

“The annual average solar irradiance in Saudi Arabia of 2,300 kilowatt-hours per square meter (kWh/m2) is more than 1.4 times that in Japan (1,600 kWh/m2). In addition, there are vast areas of land in the Middle East that remain undeveloped and unused, perfect for solar energy use.”




If five percent of the Kingdom’s land area were to be fully covered by solar panels, there would be more electricity than needed to power the entire world, according to an expert. (Shutterstock)

By one estimate, Wang said, if five percent of the Kingdom’s land area were to be fully covered by solar panels, there would be more electricity than needed to power the entire world. “Solar project development has been sluggish in the Middle East in the past,” he told Arab News.

“However, nowadays, the giant solar projects — in the process of being implemented and planned — are clear testaments that the Middle East, including the Kingdom, is ready to play a leadership role in the global rush to solar energy.”

However, one of the main issues regarding solar panels remains high temperatures during the daytime, including in Saudi Arabia where such temperatures can reach 40 C higher than the ambient air. Wang explained that this is due to commercial panels, which can convert no more than 20 percent of the solar energy they absorb into electricity.

“The rest of the more than 80 percent absorbed solar energy is undesirably converted into heat,” he said. “Heat is considered a waste and leads to the high PV temperature.”

High temperatures have two adverse effects: They reduce the panel’s electricity generation, and they further shorten the panel’s lifetime. As a result, effective panel cooling has always been highly sought by solar projects in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the Gulf.

INNUMBERS

Solar Power

- 50% KSA electricity expected from renewables by 2030

- 2% KSA households’ needs met by renewables in 2019

- 90% reduction in the cost of solar energy since 2011

“An effective PV cooling approach, such as the one reported by KAUST, would lead to enhanced electricity generation and a prolonged lifetime of the panel,” Wang said. “In doing so, there is no additional land required.”

KAUST researchers have used a simple cooling strategy, which harvests atmospheric water vapor to cool the panel down. Such a technique was demonstrated to have increased electricity generation by about 20 percent.

This cooling system is considered a new concept in the industry, with the research involved providing the first proof-of-concept. Its performance was demonstrated on a small-scale PV panel, but the team plans to scale it up all the way to the size of a commercial PV panel in the next couple of years.

“This will make the technology commercially competitive to produce real-world impact,” Wang said. “At the same time, there are applications of atmospheric water vapor-assisted cooling beyond just PV cooling, and we will actively pursue these as well.”

He further explained that water, among all known room-temperature liquids, has the highest latent heat of evaporation. “This is to say that water evaporation can take away a lot of heat from an object,” Wang said. “If this concept is to be used to cool a panel, then the question is where to get water, especially in a desert where PV panels are installed.”

Although water may not be visible on desertic ground, much of it can be found in the air, with the amount of available and constantly preserved water in the Earth’s atmosphere reaching more than six times all the water in all the rivers on the planet.

“Water vapor is available everywhere, including desert regions,” he said. “My research has been working on harvesting atmospheric water vapor to produce fresh drinking water. In doing this research, we found that the relative humidity in the desert at night is very suitable for water vapor harvesting.”

The giant solar projects — in the process of being implemented and planned — are clear testaments that the Middle East, including the Kingdom, is ready to play a leadership role in the global rush to solar energy.

Professor Peng Wang

For Jenny Chase, head of solar research at BloombergNEF, solar panels normally generate more energy when they are kept cool. However, the difference seldom justifies active cooling.

“Saudi Arabia is hot and getting hotter, so changes to PV system design that keep panels cool will improve generation,” she said. “However, if it costs a lot of money, it may not be worth it. Most panels are not cooled.”

She expects Saudi Arabia to build more solar panels regardless of the state of cooling technologies. “Renewable energy is the future everywhere,” she said. “But standard technology is good enough if this cooling technology does not work out.”

Chase said solar energy production in the Kingdom costs less than using fossil fuels. “Saudi Arabia also has no shortage of desert, and solar energy can help it meet rising air-conditioning demand, which largely occurs in the daytime,” Chase told Arab News. “It will probably build some wind as well, but solar is cheaper in a sunny country.”




A Saudi man speaks to a journalist at a solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

According to industry experts, maximizing electricity generation is of critical importance to any solar project. “This situation is particularly important in Saudi Arabia — a market that has proved its extremely high competitiveness,” said Miguel Pozuelo, Middle East key account manager at Soltec, an exhibitor at the World Future Energy Summit 2021 in Abu Dhabi.

“For a specific PV module technology, there are two main ways to optimize the generation: We can increase the irradiation falling both on the front and on the rear side of the panel to maximize the number of sun rays that reach it and, therefore, boost the electricity generation.”

Such work has proved effective worldwide using bifacial panels. Module refrigeration has also been detected as another production maximizer. “In July 2018, Soltec launched the Bifacial Tracking Evaluation Centre where, together with other entities, it has tested how different factors affect bifacial production,” Pozuelo said.

“Bifacial tracking combined with cooling of the modules will play an extremely important role in Saudi Arabia.”

He described the KAUST project as indicative of renewable-energy technology advances in the Kingdom. “Innovation is crucial to ensure the success of any industry and, in the case of solar energy, it is directly linked to the specific site conditions,” Pozuelo said.

“That is the reason why Soltec is launching a test facility to deeply understand behavior in the Middle East’s desertic environment, with special attention to bifacial tracking and automated cleaning optimization.”




Saudis work at a solar panel factory in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. (AFP/File Photo)

He foresees a promising future for renewable energy, and particularly solar, in Saudi Arabia, adding that the first utility-scale projects that are currently in advanced stages of development will provide maturity to the industry.

Meanwhile, in Thuwal, north of Jeddah, field tests at KAUST’s campus have shown that use of atmospheric water-vapor cooling could increase electricity production in winter and summer by 13 to 19 percent. “It is a significant milestone,” Professor Wang said.

He added: “The Kingdom has the best quality solar irradiation in the world and is poised to become the global leader of solar energy. At the same time, the region is faced with the problem of a lot of waste heat from panels. In our fight against global warming, renewable energy is at the center of the emerging concept of a circular and decarbonized economy.”

Wang expressed hope that such new technology would convey the message that scientific innovation can make renewable energy even “greener.”

“Let us be confident in our future with renewable energy and invest in science to make the world a better place for everyone,” he said.

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
Updated 09 March 2021

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19

8 Saudi mosques close after 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • 236 mosques have closed temporarily in last 29 days
  • 224 of them have so far reopened after sterilization

RIYADH: Saudi authorities temporarily closed eight mosques in three regions of Saudi Arabia on Monday, after 10 worshipers tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance said that 236 mosques have been closed in the past 29 days. Of those, 224 reopened after they were sterilized and steps were taken to ensure public safety.
Six of the mosques closed on Monday are in Riyadh, one is in Madinah and one in Tabuk, the ministry said. It added that six previously closed mosques have reopened in Makkah, Qassim and the Eastern Province after precautionary sterilization and maintenance.
The ministry called on worshipers and mosque officials to abide by all precautionary measures and report any violations or problems applying health protocols.


Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles
Participants including Saudi women attend a hackathon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles

Saudi Arabia beats Silicon Valley on women’s tech roles
  • Saudi Arabia's investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union

JEDDAH: Saudi women’s participation rate in the communications and IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021, an official at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said.
“Due to several initiatives, that percentage has surpassed that of Silicon Valley, which is currently at 17 percent,” Bandar Al-Duwais, MCIT’s director of future recruitments, said during the Women Enablement Summit.
After a recent surge in spending on women’s training, Saudi women currently make up 40 percent of digital entrepreneurs, he added.
Dr. Hala Al-Tuwaijri, head of G20 Women’s Empowerment team, said that during the Kingdom’s presidency, Saudi Arabia had three central focuses: Human empowerment, the earth’s sustainability and implementing new horizons.
“Women’s empowerment was at the core of all of them,” she said.
The Kingdom’s investment in cybersecurity has led to its recognition as a pioneer, rated number one regionally and 13 internationally by the International Telecommunication Union.

FASTFACT

• Saudi women’s participation rate in the IT sector rose from 11 percent in 2017 to 24 percent in 2021.

Basmah Al-Jedai, general manager of the Center of Strategic Studies at the National Cybersecurity Authority, said that women took greater advantage of the authority’s training programs than men did.
The National Academy for Cybersecurity’s scholarship program, which offered students scholarships to esteemed institutes globally, has attracted 67 percent of female applicants.
Another initiative, Cyber Pro, which focuses on building a cybersecurity workforce in the Kingdom, has seen 62 percent of female participants.
Based on the Kingdom’s goal of increasing women’s participation in the labor market and the ministry’s strategy, which gives priority to enhancing the role of women in the sector, MCIT developed an integrated program to empower women in the communications and information technology sector.


Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi. (SPA)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program

Saudi Arabia launches women’s accountancy program
  • Al-Qasabi says initiative will help achieve Vision 2030 goals

RIYADH: A program to encourage Saudi women to join the accounting profession was launched on Monday by Saudi Commerce Minister Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The program is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants (SOCPA).
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi was also present at the launch event.
Describing the accounting profession as the “backbone of any company,” Al-Qasabi said the industry is “instrumental” in the national economy.
The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams. It is part of Saudi government efforts to empower women and increase their participation in the national economy.
“Women today have strong will, determination and ambition to succeed in all fields, especially accounting, which requires precision, analysis and vitality. Saudi women possess all these qualities,” Al-Qasabi said.
“The program will enhance women’s role in improving the profession and help achieve the goals of Vision 2030.”
The minister said that there are 140 SOCPA-certified female accountants in the Kingdom. He added that SOCPA has cooperated with Saudi universities to help more than 10,000 accounting students benefit from programs and initiatives.
SOCPA Secretary-General Dr. Ahmed Al-Maghamis told Arab News that the organization will sign multiple agreements with the private sector to help promote accounting as a profession for Saudis.
He said that SOCPA aims to fill 20,000 auditing and accounting jobs by 2022.
The new women’s accounting program also doubles up as an initiative to increase the number of Saudi accountants and enable economic sectors to receive better access accounting and auditing services, he added.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The program includes training, qualification, entrepreneurship and employment streams.

• It is organized by the Saudi Organization for Certified Public Accountants.

“The program aims to develop the skills of Saudi women and allow them to participate in SOCPA council and committees,” Al-Maghamis said.
SOCPA is also working to establish a center to support small and medium enterprises. The women’s program includes several initiatives, such as a volunteer club and accounting leaderships, the empowerment platform and the women’s council, he said.
Dr. Ghuraibah Al-Twaiher, chairperson of the Future Women Society, said that promoting women and helping them achieve professional success is necessary for future economic growth.
“Vision 2030 recognizes the key role of women in the development process and calls for greater participation of women to build a vital society,” she said.
In line with the Future Women Society’s mission to enhance women’s integrated economic value locally and internationally, the society recently signed an agreement with the Saudi Financials Association (SFA), Al-Twaiher said.
“The society aims to enable, develop and empower women’s career and professional skills. The SFA increases public awareness of the financial and accounting industries and also contributes to the development of a national cadre that is specialized in finance and accounting,” she added.
Al-Twaiher said the memorandum of understanding with the SFA includes joint cooperation in organizing and implementing awareness campaigns..
As part of this, the two organizations will design training programs for women interested in the fields of accounting and finance.
Razan Al-Sehaibani, a certified accountant, said that women are naturally suited to accounting. She added that she chose the profession because she had the capabilities to be an active member in society and contribute to building the national economy.
She praised the future of the accounting industry as “promising,” adding that the addition of more women accountants will benefit the field.


Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses

Saudi Arabia approves incentives for Hajj and Umrah businesses
  • Incentives intended to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved a number of incentive initiatives for establishments operating in the Hajj and Umrah sectors, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday.
The move comes as part of the king’s keenness to mitigate the financial and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals, private sector businesses and investors.
“These initiatives come as an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts to confront the financial and economic impacts on the sectors operating in the Hajj and Umrah field and the economic activities most affected by the repercussions of the pandemic,” a statement on SPA said.
The initiatives include:
1. Accommodation facilities would be exempt of annual fees for licenses for municipal commercial activities for one year in Makkah and Madinah.
2. Hajj and Umrah sector establishments will be exempt from paying the fee for employed expats for six months.
3. Licenses for accommodation facilities from the Ministry of Tourism may be renewed free of charge for one year in Makkah and Madinah, which can be extended.
4. Collection of residency renewal fees for expatriates working in activities related to the Hajj and Umrah sector will be postponed for six months, and the amounts are to be paid in installments over a period of one year.
5. The validity of licenses (application forms) for buses operating in facilities that transport pilgrims would be extended without charge for one year.
6. Collection of customs duties for new buses for this year’s Hajj season will be postponed for three months, and to be paid in installments over a period of four months starting from the due date.
The Saudi government has launched more than 150 initiatives, the allocations of which exceeded SR180 billion ($47.9 billion), with the aim of confronting the repercussions of pandemic and mitigating its effects on individuals, the private sector and investors.


Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally
Dania Akeel describes the Saudi rally’s standards as very high. (Social media)
Updated 09 March 2021

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally

Saudi female biker eyes 2022 Dakar Rally
  • Dania Akeel says Saudi women have been given the maximum opportunity to discover themselves

MAKKAH: Saudi biker Dania Akeel sustained three pelvic fractures while participating in the Bahrain Season, but she has not been discouraged from planning to compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally.

She is one of the most prominent names in next year’s event, after arduous rounds in different rallies and getting being trained by professionals in the UAE and Spain.
Akeel took part in competitions in Dubai in 2019, as well as in Bahrain Season.
“In the last season, I suffered an accident and sustained three pelvic fractures, affecting my spine in the Bahrain in March 2020, which forced me to return to Saudi Arabia to undergo medical tests and physical therapy,” she told Arab News.
She described the Saudi rally’s standards as very high and said that champions from around the world traveled to the Kingdom to take part in the Dakar Rally, one of the toughest events.
Akeel has been a fierce competitor in races including the Hail and Northern Region Rally, which is a stage of the International Motorsport Federation’s world rally championship.

Saudi women can now prove to the world their ability to compete and participate in international racetracks in different sports.

Dania Akeel

“I was lucky that rallies in Saudi Arabia are very advanced internationally, and I was encouraged by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF). I also became the first Saudi woman to have received the Speed Bikes Competition license after competing in the UAE.”
She thanked SAMF Chairman Prince Khalid bin Sultan and Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki for supporting women who were entering events at an international level.
She said that Saudi women had been given the maximum opportunity to discover themselves and become key partners in all occasions, celebrations and diverse sports.
It was the element of adventure that attracted her to rallies, she explained, because racing was a sport that required a comprehensive partnership and navigation with a co-pilot. The diversity of rallies, in terms of distance and duration, also appealed to her.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dania Akeel is one of the most prominent names in next year’s event.

• Akeel took part in competitions in Dubai in 2019, as well as in the Bahrain Season.

• Akeel has been a fierce competitor in races including the Hail and Northern Region Rally.

“The Sharqiyah International Baja Toyota Rally is my personal first race. It is an incentive for me to participate in the 2022 Dakar Rally and a race that introduces me to the future world of racing.”
She aimed to continue in the rally with good health and safety measures in place and learn from her experiences which, she said, was important for the “real takeoff and acquisition of essential skills in this kind of races.”
There was a great passion for the sport, she observed, especially among ambitious Saudi women who had discovered challenging worlds and areas that reflected their reputation.
“They can now prove to the world their ability to compete and participate in international racetracks in different sports.”
Akeel, who holds a master’s degree in international business, said that motorbikes had helped her to discover herself and learn about concentration, mastery, responsibility and participation skills. She also learned about mental clarity.
“This is a sport that needs full commitment to training, physical and mental fitness and control.”
Akeel has been passionate about driving since her childhood. She rode her first quad bike aged 8, and her first 150cc dirt bike in the desert at 14.
“I believe it is only natural for me to partake in one of the most challenging desert championships around the world, which also happens to take place in our sandy backyard,” she said.
Akeel was also the recipient of the “Rookie of the Year” award during her first racing season, for the Ducati Cup in the UAE National Sportbike Super series 2019/2020 season.