Saudi Arabia should aim for 41 GW solar energy by 2032

Saudi Arabia should install much more solar power over the next 20 years than any country has managed so far while building around 21 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear reactors, the body responsible for planning the Saudi energy mix said on Tuesday.

The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) – set up to advise on the energy mix – has concluded the kingdom should try to build nearly 41 GW of solar energy capacity, enough to meet a third of expected peak power demand in 2032, while a sixth of installed capacity should come from nuclear and about half from oil and gas.

"I’m confident Saudi Arabia will approve a diversified energy mix this year," Khalid al-Sulaiman, vice president for renewable energy at KACARE, told Reuters after a presentation outlining KACARE’s recommendation to the Saudi government.

KACARE said the Kingdom should aim to build 16 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity and about 25 GW of concentrated solar power capacity by 2032.

The world’s largest oil producer has built a negligible amount of solar power capacity to date, less than 50 megawatts, after saying a few years ago it would become a major solar power but the target of 41,000 MW, if met, would propel it towards the top of the solar power table.

World solar leader Germany installed more than 7,000 MW in both 2010 and 2011, raising its total at the end of last year to 25,000 MW.

Solar power could help meet peak demand for power in a country where electricity surges in summer, in combination with Saudi oil and gas fired power plants.

Under most of the scenarios model led by KA-CARE, nuclear energy emerged as one of the best ways for generating "baseload" electricity, and the 21 GW target implies more reactors being built in the kingdom over the next 20 years than those currently planned by any other country other than China, India, Russia and the United States, according to World Nuclear Association data.