While the Australian government engages in endless reviews and repeals of its clean energy policies, Australian solar companies looking elsewhere for growth opportunities could do worse than Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom plans to build 41GW of solar energy generating capacity over the next two decades under a $US109 billion competitive procurement program administered by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, and companies like Solar Systems are taking advantage.
Solar Systems – a subsidiary of ASX-listed Silex Systems – this week announced completion of its 1MW concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) plant at the Nofa Equestrian Resort near Riyadh, marking the first time the company’s ‘Dense Array’ CPV technology has been deployed overseas.
In July last year, Solar Systems officially launched a 1.5 MW plant in the Victorian city of Mildura, featuring 40 concentrating photovoltaic dishes and producing enough electricity to power 500 homes. The company has plans to expand the plant to 100MW.
In 2012, Silex predicted the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for its technology would fall below 10c/kWh ($100/MWh) within a few years – making it cost competitive with a range of technologies such as wind and large-scale solar PV, and below the cost of new gas- and coal-fired generation.
The Australian Energy Technology Assessment (AETA) has since said that this rate, if achieved by Solar Systems’ concentrating solar PV plants, would be one of the most cost-effective forms of future energy production.
If this fact has failed to capture the imagination of governments in Australia, it has succeeded in the KSA, which plans to generate a third of its electricity from solar energy by 2032, in the hope of offsetting approximately $US100 billion of annual export revenues lost due to domestic oil consumption.
But as well as what Solar Systems’ CEO Chris Murray has described as “arguably the world’s largest solar power investment program,” Saudi Arabia has other solar market advantages, not least of all local climate conditions suited deployment of CPV technology.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a high Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), very high average daily temperatures and negligible cloud cover, making it well-suited to Solar Systems’ technology,” said Silex CEO Michael Goldsworthy. “There are significant opportunities to develop solar projects in Saudi Arabia.”