Solar Power Primed for Popularity Surge in Middle East and North Africa
Demand for solar energy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will skyrocket in the next five years, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Emirates Solar Industry Association (EISA).
"In terms of solar energy, it is clear that the MENA region is set to experience significant change over the next five years," said Scott Burger, the analyst at GTM Research who authored the report.
Solar demand in MENA energy markets will approach 10 gigawatts by 2017, nearly 70 percent of which will come from Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saudi Arabia, which has announced a renewable energy strategy that will include 31 gigawatts of solar production by 2030, should become the region's first gigawatt-scale market by 2015, but Turkey will be close behind because of its favorable renewable energy policies and previous experience with wind power installation.
While increased awareness of climate change and the development of high-capacity photovoltaic and concentrated solar plants have contributed to steady increased in solar power demand worldwide, solar power accounted for just one-third of one percent of global energy production in 2011.
Still, solar power installations are increasing exponentially worldwide. Thus far, adoption of the clean energy technology has been most pronounced in Europe, but this latest report suggests that the MENA region is ripe for growth.
"The MENA region possesses some of the greatest potential for solar energy in the world," said Dr. Steven Griffiths, Research Director at ESIA. "This potential is now starting to be more seriously considered."
Although Saudi Arabia is best positioned for widespread solar adoption, Dr. Griffiths noted that Qatar plans to install nearly 2 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity 2014 and Dubai has set a goal of source 5 percent of its power supply from solar by 2030. Moreover, Abu Dhabi is in the process of commissioning a 100-megawatt concentrating solar plant.
"While Saudi Arabia will likely be the largest market in the long-term, there will be significant opportunities throughout the region," said Burger. "With strategic planning and a solid development of local partners and supply chains, savvy companies will be able to capitalize on all of the opportunities in the region."
One such company is First Solar, the global leader in thin-film photovoltaic systems, which opened its first office in Dubai last year. In October, the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority selected First Solar to construct a 13 megawatt solar plant, the first stage in a planned 1 gigawatt project that will cover 48 square kilometers.
First Solar CEO Jim Hughes commended Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's leader, "for his vision in promoting a path toward a sustainable future for Dubai that preserves natural resources, reduces pollution and serves the Emirate's rapidly growing power needs."
First Solar, which is seeking for new markets after cooling demand for solar power in Europe forced the company to cut jobs last year, is also heavily invested in Saudi Arabia.
GTM Research and ESIA will present their report at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 16.
Image credit: Edward Musiak, Flickr