Not Yet Time For Batteries And Photovoltaic Solar Panels In Saudi Arabia

Feb 4, 2021 03:49 PM ET
  • Two Saudi Arabian scientists, Professor Alberto Boretti and Dr. Wael Al-Kouz Prince Mohammad Bin Fahad University, together with Dr. Stefania Castelletto, an Associate Professor from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, Australia, announced in a recent publication of IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science that contrary to claims that 100% renewable energy is possible in Saudi Arabia using PV single-axis and battery storage, the assumption is impractical and not feasible.
Not Yet Time For Batteries And Photovoltaic Solar Panels In Saudi Arabia

The study responded to earlier articles claiming that Saudi Arabia can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040. Here, the researchers reviewed information from the Australian national electricity market (NEM). Australian real-world PV and wind. The researchers demonstrate PV and wind capacity in Australia and how it compares with Saudi Arabia. NEM is an open-access market that allows traders and power generators to purchase and sell electricity with complete honesty. This framework supplies 80% of electricity consumed in Australia.   

Power Efficiency 

Scientists from both countries examined solar and wind power production efficiency, climate condition, power plant component, and system yield of each country necessary to establish a stable grid of solar-based energy. Given the nature of solar and wind sources, unpredictable and irregular, the researchers insist that the software tools to facilitate climate and power operation must be highly efficient. AT the time of the publication, Australia had registered solar energy from rooftops at 8000 MW. Solar energy production in Saudi Arabia is still in its infancy. The researchers argue that based on available data, solar power's production efficiency in Saudi Arabia is 20 years from achieving what other countries such as Australia and the USA have achieved so far.

The researchers claim that battery and solar photovoltaic (PV) only cannot meet the grid system demand as proposed in multiple studies. They are costly and less productive in Saudi Arabia compared to other countries. Unlike Australia, Solar panels in Saudi Arabia face a major challenge from dust and sand. Here, their accumulation on the surface of solar photovoltaic panel decreases the efficiency in accumulating dust. Large scale impact of dust and sand interferes with the production capacity and increase maintenance cost.  For the case of a battery system, currently, Australia has the largest installed battery with 100MW. Compared to the USA and Australia, the extreme climate of Saudi Arabia results in a shorter life span of the batteries and produces less energy of inefficiency. This results in a higher cost of storage batteries, according to the researchers' analysis 

A Suitable Option

Compared to other nations implementing green energy initiatives, hydropower facilities are not available in Saudi Arabia, which could be used as an alternative to generating renewable energy. The country has no rivers with little water. No current technology is sufficient to support the hydropower from the ocean. This means that Saudi Arabia cannot meet the projected energy capacity. The team insisted that technology that is not working or inefficient should not undermine well-proven technologies. In Saudi Arabia, it is better to find more productive ways to use fossil fuel with minimal carbon emissions and high efficiency. People should not expect more from Saudi Arabia, yet the same process is not performing well elsewhere.  Electricity production is negligible regardless of system size. 250 MW Concentrating Solar Thermal Power named Lack of production resulted in a closure of a 1 billion $ Crescent Dunes solar tower in the USA just after 4 years. The projects are costly, running to a billion-dollar budget, yet not productive, while some have zero dispatch ability. For example, the 2.50 billion $ Topaz in the USA is designed to produce 585.9 MW, and it cannot go past a capacity factor of more than 30%.

Clearly, thinking that the country can produce sustainable electricity from PV solar panels and batteries is unrealistic. With such cost in Saudi Arabia, accompanied by extreme sand, dust, and temperatures, it becomes unrealistic to exaggerate the country's production potential. The current and near-future projection of the production potential of Saudi Arabia is far from the truth. An observation from the USA shows that combined-cycle power plants are a superior option. Gas and oil with a conversion capacity of more than 50% are suitable for the country's power stations. The economic and environmental cost of PV and batteries is unsustainable. According to the researchers’ estimation, the Saudi government could be direct the money being wasted on PV and batteries to other environmental initiatives presently.