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Written by Student/ Sami bin Saad Thallab Sbei’y
College of Science and Humanities at al-Aflaj
Since the beginning of time, God has bestowed innumerable natural resources on mankind; those natural resources, whether in their simplest forms, greatest masses or most intricate forms, have caused man to bewilder at them throughout the different epochs in which humanity has existed. Man has continuously been unraveling their mysteries, striving with unrelenting tenacity to avail himself of their properties. As a result of this strenuous effort, the importance of renewable energy has emerged, and one of the salient forms of renewable energy is solar energy. One of the most efficient and practical uses of the solar energy has been the generation of electricity.
Generating electricity from solar power is an area of interest where nations and business conglomerates are competing to be in the forefront. The aim is to make available a clean and renewable source of energy that is economically sustainable and environment-friendly.
In accordance with this, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has joined the race, firstly because it receives phenomenal amounts of sunshine compared to most other countries of the world, and secondly because it has been heavily reliant on petrol for the production of electricity. Currently, 10% of KSA’s oil is consumed for the production of electricity, since 2.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) are burnt on a daily basis (c. 1.6 BOE gas and 0.8 BOE crude oil, fuel and diesel). This problem of waste of energy is compounded by an equivalent greenhouse gas emission problem. It is clear then that something ought to be done.
Since this has posed an exigent economical and environmental issue, the KSA strategy was launched to utilize solar energy over the coming 20 years, by building specialized stations to harness solar energy that is capable of generating c. 41 gigawatts of electricity within the next 20 years. This will make up 33% of the local consumption of electricity.
The Kingdom’s plan is not confined to generating solar energy and achieving self-sufficiency through it; the long-term plan is to become an international exporter of solar energy. In unison with this ambitious vision, the first independent solar power plant in the Kingdom was launched in the governorate of Aflaj with a capacity of 50 megawatts.
This massive project was named Layla PV Plant at a conference for signing a memorandum of understanding whereby the Plant was going to be created. The memorandum was signed by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST, the Saudi Electricity Company and the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA). This project is bound to save 4bn barrels of diesel and natural gas over the next 25 years, and it will also cut down on 1.7 million tons worth of greenhouse emissions.
It should be noted that throughout the entire duration of the project the unsubsidized purchase price starts at SR 0.1875 per KWH, which is by far the lowest unsubsidized price in the world. In other words, Layla PV Plant is going to be able to produce the world’s cheapest solar energy.
The governorate of al-Aflaj was chosen as the location for the Kingdom’s first solar energy project owing to its unique climate and geography and to the availability of vast empty spaces. For that reason, al-Aflaj is going to be the first governorate to benefit from the solar energy produced by the Plant.
In conclusion, we are sanguine that the Layla Solar Power Plant is going to be a successful start that will deliver great economic benefits and sustainable development; it will build generations, it will respect the environment, and it will be an ideal model, locally and globally. It will set a precedent for how to best harness solar energy and how to utilise renewable energy; it has all the makings of being an example for others to emulate in their attempt to create a successful, environment-friendly national project.