7 October 2013 – Saudi Arabia plans to install 16 GW of solar-photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2032, of which 6.0 GW is targeted for installation before 2020. Given that few megawatts of solar PV have been installed so far, nearly 1,000 MW will need to be installed every year to achieve Saudi Arabia’s 2020 target. Since 1,000 MW of PV equates to some six million square metres, roughly four million solar panels will be required a year, or more than 10,000 solar panels per day.

Land requirements, however, should not be a limitation, as vast amounts of space are available in the desert. The challenge lies in understanding how Saudi Arabia’s desert conditions can influence the operation and output of a PV power plant.

“Saudi Arabia is a natural market for solar PV. Not only is the country blessed with huge oil reserves, but its solar reserves are definitely infinite,” Edwin Koot, CEO and founder of Solarplaza, says.

“Not only could Saudi Arabia power its whole country with solar energy, it could even generate enough solar energy covering the global yearly electricity needs using just a relative small part of its desert area. The good news is that by generating more solar energy, more oil can be exported, generating higher revenues and profits. Saudi Arabia could become solar hub for the Middle East,” Koot, who has been working in the solar PV industry since 1994, says.

With as much as US$109 billion allocated by the Saudi government for solar investments, and five to seven renewable energy projects to be tendered in the introductory tendering round, competition will be intense amongst bidders.