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By Steve Allen
Saudi Arabia will seek investors interested in a $109 billion plan to generate power from solar energy. The ambitious plan calls for a long term goal of generating an entire third of the nation’s electricity from solar power by the year 2032.

Saudi Arabia hopes to have upwards of 40,000 megawatts of solar power capacity installed within the next twenty years says a consultant at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.  This recent push for solar energy is also a run toward creating a sustainable solar energy sector that will help drive domestic energy. Not only does this mean eventually saving roughly 520,000 barrels of oil per day over the next two decades; it means more governments are starting to take alternatives seriously. If the end goal of 41 GW capacity is ever met, it would launch Saudi Arabia toward the top of the solar power generating countries.

Some benefits of solar energy include:

  • Cleaner mode of energy production – probably the number one benefit of using solar energy is that it does not emit harmful pollution into the air, water, or surrounding soil the way a conventional power plant does.

  • Less dependence on oil and other dirty finite fossil fuels for energy needs.

  • Totally renewable, unless the sun stops shining, solar will always provide an energy source.

  • Little maintenance required beyond normal operations maintenance.

  • Provides a source of secure, home-grown energy.

Saudi Arabia has great potential to develop solar energy with the abundance of sunlight received in the Kingdom, according to Shafiqur Rahman , a researcher at King Fahd University of Petroleum and minerals. Shafiqur believes Saudi Arabia is capable of becoming the world leader in exporting solar energy to other countries and highlighted the potential of doing so in a presentation of renewable energy. However, with that said, some critics point out that the Kingdom which is the world’s largest producer of oil has currently a very meager 50 megawatts of solar power after similar renewable energy claims were made by others in the past.  Perhaps the world’s largest solar power plant in the world which opened in the Kingdom this year, will offer further proof of how dedicated Saudi Arabia is to their stated goals.

Currently the world leader in solar power generation is Germany which recently installed over 14,000 MW of capacity in the last few years. As of 2011 about 3 percent of the total electricity generated in Germany came from solar. That number is predicted to climb to as much as 25 percent within the next few decades. But I don’t think that the rest of the world will be far behind for very many more years to come. It sounds like nations around the world are also beginning to realize the importance of utilizing alternative methods of energy production to stave off environment related issues.

As we watch investments being made in the relatively new frontier of alternative energies, I think it will be interesting to watch which countries decide to embrace the future and go for it and who will sit back and resist the change. In a world addicted to oil, it’s nice to see some are making smart investments in the future of renewable sustainable energy.

Written by Steve Allen who also writes for theEnvironmentalBlog.org.

Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Shayan (USA) via Flickr.

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