Saudi Arabia to identify renewable energy project sites via ‘unprecedented’ geographical survey

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Solar panels in Saudi Arabia.
The scale of the project is described as “unprecedented” by the Saudi Arabia government. Credit: Arctech

Saudi Arabia has launched a geographical survey project to identify suitable sites for renewables projects across the nation.

Saudi Arabia energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud said the project will help identify the best sites in terms of the size of renewable energy resources, for developing renewables projects in the country and the priority of developing these projects.

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The project will survey all regions of Saudi Arabia with a combined area of over 850,000 square kilometres, excluding populated and airspace-restricted areas and sand dunes. The scale of the project, as part of Saudi Arabia’s National Renewable Energy Programme, is “globally unprecedented”, according to the minister.

A total of 1,200 stations will be installed for measuring solar and wind energy. In the first phase of the project, the stations will survey the designated area spreading into all regions of Saudi Arabia to identify suitable sites for renewables projects. Subsequently, the project’s stations will be moved to these sites and installed there to continuously provide all required yet accurate data for implementing renewables projects.

The solar energy measurement stations, equipped with “advanced measurement devices” at ground level, will record direct normal irradiance, global horizontal irradiance, diffuse horizontal irradiance, dust and pollutant deposition rates, ground-reflected radiation, ambient temperature, rainfall levels, relative humidity and atmospheric pressure.

Artificial intelligence systems will be used in the project to assess and rank sites based on their suitability for renewables projects. The project can also help eliminate the current waiting period of 18-24 months to obtain data, hastening the process of the allocation of land lots.

Additionally, the energy minister also said Saudi Arabia will tender new renewables projects with a capacity of 20GW annually starting from 2024, aiming to reach between 100GW and 130GW by 2030, depending on electricity demand growth.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia unveiled the qualified bidders for the fifth round of 3.7GW solar projects under the National Renewable Energy Programme (NREP) in Saudi Arabia, including several major renewables developers. In an announcement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the SPPC announced that Masdar, EDF Renouvelables, Itochu Corporation, Total Energies Renewables, and Saudi Electricity Company were among the companies that won bids.

The biggest project offered in this round is Al Sadawi with a capacity of 2GWac, located in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

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