RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: Off-grid solar photovoltaic applications and hybrid solutions have already demonstrated their technical and economic feasibility in many parts of the world. These applications are even more relevant in Saudi Arabia because of the Kingdom's superlative solar radiation, industrial penetration into remote areas, and the staggering volume of diesel imports.
Nearly a quarter of the Saudi energy grid is currently powered by diesel, which is used extensively as a fuel for transportation and electricity generation despite the high cost of importing it. At least $1 billion is spent every month on diesel imports to the Kingdom, in addition to the cost and emissions from transporting the fuel to remote areas.
"In Saudi Arabia, there are weaknesses in electricity grid connection; the demand is huge and the load as well," says Sabri Asfour, GM of FAS Energy, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's Fawaz Alhokair Group with 2,400 MW of GCC-based solar projects in the pipeline.
As a result, the idea of using PV-generated electricity to offset diesel usage - or to replace it altogether as energy storage costs decline - is becoming increasingly appealing for utilities and industrial corporations, especially those keen on eliminating the uncertainty of future energy costs.
"There are many business areas without electricity and they are waiting for their turn to be connected to the grid, but unfortunately, the queue is long. At FAS Energy, we build small, medium and large-scale hybrid power plants. It is well known that Saudi Arabia's solar irradiation is the best in the region so we have to use it," highlights Asfour, who will be speaking at the second edition of the Desert Solar Saudi Arabia conference that will be held from 17-18 September.
Building on the success of the first Desert Solar Conference, the event is once again gathering stakeholders in the Saudi Arabian solar energy market, hosting more than 150 decision makers from across the industry. The distinguished panel of speakers includes executives from Air Liquide MENA, E.ON, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST), Tokyo Electron Taiwan, as well as Solairedirect and First Solar.