Libya exports close to $12 billion a year in petroleum products and they are seventy percent of its total exports. This north african nation also has an estimated 48 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves. In other words, oil is a critical part of the national economy there, and has been for years.
Recent research has indicated the solar potential is even greater than the petroleum productivity. If Libya used just 0.1% of its landmass for solar power, it could generate the equivalent of seven million barrels of oil per day, which would be about five times the 1.4 million barrels it currently produces. Some critics of solar power say it takes up took much land, but Libya has a great deal of open space (desert) and only about six million people. So there is plenty of land available for solar power installations.
What makes solar power even more attractive in Libya is the high levels of daily solar radiation. On a coastal plane, that rate is 7.1 kilowatt hours per square metre per day, and in a southern area it is 8.1. The average solar radiation rate in the UK is less than half of that.
There is enough daily sunlight the researchers speculated that it is possible Libya could become an exporter of solar power to African and European nations. Wind power also has good potential there, so they could become clean energy independent at some point, but oil and natural gas are currently so much a part of their economy and culture, such a shifty probably will not happen soon. Still, the new Libyan government has shown at least some interest in clean energy development, said one of the researchers. Funding could come from oil and gas exports.
The fact so much solar and wind power potential is being left on the table, seems to go almost completely unrecognized. If millions of barrels of oil were being spilled in desert lands every day, it would seem like a catastrophe of biblical proportions, but vast quantities of sunlight are not used for solar power every day around the world.