1. IntroductionMost of the global economy runs on burning fossil fuel and the major element that produce electricity is coal which emits Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 1997 KYOTO protocol called for a reduction in greenhouse emissions among nations to save the earth from global warming. Climate change and global warming is the result of human irresponsible acts. The amount of Carbon dioxide that is pumped into the atmosphere is without a doubt harmful to human and the environment. Carbon dioxide is the main cause of the excessive heat in the atmosphere. In the last 50 years, the atmosphere temperature had increased by one Celsius degree and with this pollution rhythm, it will reach to 3.5 Celsius degrees. As a result, oceans water level will increase to at least 10 m that will cause flooding, climate change, and global warming.Saudi Arabia Climate Action Plan aims to reduce Carbon dioxide emissions up to 130 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) By 2030. The plan includes a project to produce energy such as a solar energy project which is safer than burning coal and releasing Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The main goal is the reduction of carbon emissions, to reduce fossil fuel burning, and to capture carbon dioxide. Saudi Arabia is working on developing a project to Capture carbon dioxide and the goal is to capture 1500 tons of carbon dioxide daily. (Saudi Arabia Climate Action Plan, 2015)Saudi Arabia is an oil base country in the middle east that has a very hot weather and extremely low rainfall (less than 150 mm per year). Saudi Arabia uses order and command as regulation in its environmental issues. Saudi Arabia is fortunate with the sun and the summer weather all year. Saudi Arabia is also fortunate because it is in the sun built. The sun is one of the natural resources that must be used in the development of the country, which is estimated at about 2200 kilowatt hours / m 2 annually. (Hepbasli, et al,. 2009) In addition, Saudi Arabia has many remote small villages which are not in the electrical network or grid system. Therefore, the logical recommendation in this case is to establish solar plants in these remote areas. Renewable energy is able to provide a large part of the local needs of electric power as an alternative to energy production.Map 1: The radiation on Saudi Arabia (Solargis, http://solargis.info)Despite the availability of traditional energy in Saudi Arabia at a cheap price due to the fact that Saudi Arabia is an oil based country. Saudi Arabia government is insisting on using the sun as an energy natural resource. Solar cells are used to convert solar radiation directly into electricity. This mechanism is known as photovoltaic conversion. The conversion of photovoltaic power is expected to reduce fossil fuel consumption and reduce environmental pollution. Photovoltaic system generally used in applications such as lighting, communications, water pumping and other applications. Like any other country, Saudi Arabia population is growing and the growth rate in population is 4.1%. In 2006, Saudi Arabia population was 25.6 million and with 4.1% growth rate, the population in Saudi Arabia can reach more that 60 million as shown in graph 1. This increase in population requires an increase in the services provided to the people. To match this growth rate in population, Saudi Arabia needs to increase its GW production as shown in graph 2. (Al-Saleh, 2009)Graph 2: Saudi Arabia power demand (Al-Saleh, 2009) There are some indications that solar energy demand in increasing as shown in graph 3. The price of a solar panel per watt have decreased, in addition, the global solar panel installation has increased and the demand reaches levels that is the highest in human history in 2015 and it is expected to increase more. Graph 3: An increase in global solar panel installation (Stanford University)3. Research and development Saudi Arabia started working on solar energy since 1960 by establishing many research and development centers in different universities and with many deferent partners from around the world. The first institute in Saudi Arabia that did research on renewable energy was King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology(KACST). This research center concentrated on solar energy research and how can it be used to help the country to replace the traditional energy with solar energy and what are the major limitation and challenges? King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) was created in 1977 (Almasoud et al., 2005). King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) major accomplishment was the partnership with the United State National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This partnership was very important because the United State National Renewable Energy Laboratory had the knowledge and expertise in solar energy. This partnership that was created in 1994 helped King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in their solar energy research and it was a huge milestone. (Said et al., 2008)Another major partnership was between the Federal Republic of Germany and Saudi Arabia. This partnership started in 1986 and the project of research and development between the two parties ended in 1991. (Hepbasli, et al, 2009) Many research centers were created in Saudi Arabia concerning solar energy. In the east region, there is a research center at King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals(KFUPM). This research center was created in 2007 and the concentration with regard to solar energy is how to store solar energy. Another research center was created in the capital of Saudi Arabia Riyadh in King Saud University and the main concentration with regard to solar energy is how to use solar energy in water applications such as water desalination. Moreover, a research center was created in the western region of Saudi Arabia in Medina in Taibah University and the main concentration with regard to solar energy is solar collectors.
Oil price is declining and as a result, the Saudi economy will decline as well. Saudi Arabia depends on oil, 90% of the country income is from oil. Saudi Arabia goal is to move away from fossil fuels and use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Recently, electric cars are taking a market share and start to threaten oil market. A major obstacle that effects the performance of the solar plant in Saudi Arabia is sand. Since Saudi Arabia wants to build the solar plants in the desert and open space to collect more solar radiation, these deserts sand is going to gather on top of the solar panels and work as a shield against the sun radiation. Such sand movement will reduce the electrical capacity that might be collected from the solar plants. Moreover, Saudi Arabia weather is well known with the sandstorms that will increase the blocking possibility of the solar radiation. Therefore, it is not recommended to build any solar plants in the areas that have shifting sand as shown in map 2.
Map 2: Shifting sands in Saudi Arabia (Almasoud et al., 2005).
Another major obstacle that affect the performance of the solar plant in Saudi Arabia is the heat. Many people think that heat will help to increase the solar panels performance, however, it is the opposite. The more the heat the less energy produced, therefore, the best ten location in Saudi Arabia to build solar plant are shown on the map 3.
Map 3: Best 10 location in Saudi Arabia to build solar plant on (Almasoud et al., 2005).
Saudi Arabia is surrounded by sea water from west, south, and east, therefore, Saudi Arabia has many desalination plants to provide usable water from the sea water. The intention is to use solar plants to operate the desalination plants. Saudi Arabia is focusing on using the solar energy on projects more than using the solar energy in residential services. Saudi Arabia plan is to use solar energy in every project such as the desalination plants rather than using the traditional way of producing electricity.
Table 1: list of solar projects in Saudi Arabia from 1981 to 2000. (Said et al., 2008)
Saudi Arabia was working on renewable energy and in particular solar energy since 1960 and the first project was a solar village that serves three remote villages northwest Saudi Arabia capital. This solar village is 50 km from the capital city and it provides these three remote villages with about 1.5 MWH. This project was established in 1980 and it was set to provide these three villages with one MWH to 1.5MWH and it reached its target and expectations. This solar village project is a result of the research that Saudi Arabia started in 1960. The cost of the solar village was around 18 million Dollars (Sayigh et al., 1998).
In 2016, Saudi Arabia Royal Commission signed a contract with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Effendi Group to establish the largest integrated commercial plant in the Middle East to produce solar cells locally in Saudi Arabia. This kind of agreements indicates that Saudi Arabia wants to be self-dependent on producing solar energy and do not have to import the solar cells from other countries.
The plant will produce solar panels generating 120 megawatts per year of electricity needed to cover the growing demand for renewable energy. Saudi Arabia’s investment in solar power is by the billions to finance solar power plants all around the country. Saudi Arabia wants to be one of the leading countries in solar energy and the expectations are high to import the technology to other countries.