Saudi Arabia: The World’s Leader in Solar Energy?

When most people think of Saudi Arabia they think of oil.  And considering that Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves contain approximately 18% of the world’s oil they aren’t wrong.  One might then wonder why Saudi Arabia, as the leading producer of oil, would even bother with producing solar energy.  The answer is energy.   Saudi Arabia’s current oil consumption is growing each year as they try to keep up with growing energy demands.  If the current rate of growth continues many financial advisers expect Saudi Arabia to become a net importer of energy within the next 20 years.

There is also a cost benefit for Saudi Arabia to become less dependent on oil for its electricity needs.  As it stands Saudi Arabia consumes 2.64 million bbl/day   out of the 11.5 million bbl/day that it can produce (bbl stands for blue barrels which are industry standard 42 gallon barrels).  The oil that is sold domestically in Saudi Arabia is sold for about $5/bbl compared to the oil that is exported for about $100/bbl.  Doing some quick math says that if they could decrease their dependence on oil for domestic energy needs then Saudi Arabia could stand to gain about $250.8 million/day in oil sales.

In an effort to keep ahead of the curve, along with becoming more green and eco-friendly, Saudi Arabia has launched a $109 billion solar energy platform. solar field This platform will consist of Shams 1,2 and 3.  Each of which will have a field of solar panels about the size of 300 football fields and be able to provide energy to approximately 20,000 homes.  With this platform Saudi Arabia hopes to provide 1/3 of its annual energy by 2032 and eventually be able to export solar energy to the surrounding countries like Egypt and possible even Europe.

Future plans for the Saudi Arabian solar power plant include making a global network of plants that can provide power to the world on a 24/7 basis.  In order for this to happen there would need to be a massive interconnected network that covered the planet so that when night falls on one side of the globe the other side could provide energy to those countries literally in the dark.  Although the sun produces enough energy in one hour to meet the energy demands of the world for one year, the amount of land and machinery needed to absorb that energy is very costly and poses a massive barrier to the dreams of a global solar energy network.


“Solar Energy.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

Meyer, Christopher. “Could the Middle East Fuel the Solar Industry?” Harvard Business Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

Hill, Joshua. “Suntech Launches Massive Saudi Arabian Solar System” CleanTechnica. N.p., 16 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. 

Israel Environment. “Persian Gulf States Getting Hot for Solar Power.” Ynet. N.p., 31 Dec. 2012. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

Clark, Pilita. “Saudis Eye Solar-power Exports to Europe.” Financial Times. N.p., 7 Dec. 2012. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

“Oil – Consumption.” Central Intelligence Agency – The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.


1 Comment

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One response to “Saudi Arabia: The World’s Leader in Solar Energy?

  1. varund55

    The distance from Saudi to Europe is about 4500 miles. Could you please tell me how they would be exporting solar energy with the Black sea and Mediterranean sea in between ? Just curious.

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