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Al Suwaiket takes part at the 3rd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum held in the USA

September 19, 2013 in Electric Vehicles, EV News, Trains

Photo courtesy of Saudi Railways Organization

Photo courtesy of Saudi Railways Organization

SRO President  H.E Eng. Mohammed Al Suwaiket takes part in the 3rd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum held this week in Los Angeles – California from 16 – 18 September, 2013.

Al-Suwaiket underlined the importance of this forum and pointed out to the mega projects carried out by the Kingdom within the Expansion Program in the railway system approved by the Supreme Economic Council in the Kingdom and the economic value added through these projects to the national economy.

Al Suwaiket added that he presented a visual display on the Saudi Railway Master Plan 2010 – 2040 (SRMP), explaining the main objective of the plan which is to have a conceptual framework in place for the long term development of a future passenger and freight transport network for the Kingdom. In addition to detailed explanation about Haramain High Speed Rail Project (HHR) carried out by SRO which is 450 km rail track connecting Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah, and will be equipped with high–speed electric trains with a capacity of 300 km per hour. The project is being implemented at the initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who wants to provide better transport services for Haj and Umrah pilgrims.

Also the presentation included projects of the next phase, such as GCC train project, The North-South train carried out by the Saudi Railways Company (SAR), Landbridge Project and the light train projects implemented in the main cities of the Kingdom.

The president also pointed out to the functions of the Saudi Railways Commission which aims to regulate the activity of rail transport, overseeing the operating efficiency, verifying the application of safety procedures and granting license of operation and safety certification after checking the technical requirements in this area.

The 3rd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum set for in Los Angeles – California was opened with a wide participation by specialists and senior officials from Saudi Arabia and the U.S. and several sessions were held and highlighted the U.S.-Saudi Commercial and trade relationship, and how U.S. companies can participate in Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary economic growth and the promising mega projects carried out by Saudi government in several areas, including the transport sector which is witnessing growth in the volume of projects and huge investments that aim to develop this sector to serve the purposes of sustainable development on the long term.

This article is a repost, credit: Saudi Railways Organization.

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Global crude oil supply disruptions and strong demand support high oil prices, Source: EIA

September 10, 2013 in EIA, EV News, Oil, Politics

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg, LP  Courtesy of EIA

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg, LP
Courtesy of EIA

While Brent crude oil spot prices have increased as much as $7 per barrel (6%) since the chemical weapons incident in Syria on August 21, 2013, market fundamentals had been moving Brent prices higher even earlier. From mid-April to August 20, Brent crude oil spot prices increased almost $15 per barrel (15%) because of increasing global refinery demand coupled with record levels of unexpected crude oil production outages, notably in Iraq and Libya. Global unplanned crude oil and liquid fuels disruptions averaged 2.7 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in August, the highest level over the period January 2011 through August 2013.

Oil supply disruptions in key producing countries are up sharply:

  • Libya. Protests at many seaport facilities have blocked exports, and, as a result, crude oil supply disruptions averaged close to 1 million bbl/d in August, up from 0.13 million bbl/d in April. Pipeline closures by militia groups at the end of August have worsened the situation, with disruptions rising to 1.35-1.4 million bbl/d by the end of August.
  • Nigeria. Disruptions in June on key pipelines helped curtail almost 450,000 bbl/d of production, up 100,000 bbl/d compared to May. Production recovered somewhat by August when 290,000 bbl/d were off-line.
  • Iraq. Persistent attacks on the pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan in Turkey helped push disruptions of Iraqi crude oil production to 250,000 bbl/d in August, up 100,000 bbl/d from April. In addition, September maintenance at the Iraqi port of Basra could further reduce exports by several hundred thousand barrels per day. Although the Iraqi government has stated that exports will not be affected, a preliminary September loading schedule indicates a decline of several hundred thousand barrels per day.

    Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration  Courtesy of EIA

    Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
    Courtesy of EIA

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration  Courtesy of EIA

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Courtesy of EIA

Syria is not a major crude oil producer, and significant volumes of crude oil do not move through the country to reach global markets. Before the civil war began in 2011, Syria produced around 400,000 bbl/d of crude oil and exported about 150,000 bbl/d, mostly to Europe. However, ongoing hostilities, which have significantly affected energy infrastructure, combined with stringent international sanctions on petroleum exports from Syria, cut crude oil production by about 85%. As a result, while the recent events in Syria have pushed Brent prices higher on concerns about wider geopolitical unrest in the Middle East, they have not reduced the physical flow of crude oil into the global market.

Concerns about geopolitical unrest will likely continue to affect crude oil prices. However, other factors could push crude oil prices lower:

  • Seasonal demand patterns. Seasonally, global crude oil demand declines in September—the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects global crude runs to fall 2.1 million bbl/d in September from their July peak to 76.2 million bbl/d, and to fall an additional 0.3 million bbl/d in October.
  • Rising non-OPEC production. EIA projects non-OPEC liquid fuels production to increase almost 2 million bbl/d in 2013, with fourth-quarter 2013 production 0.7 million bbl/d above the third-quarter level, helping to offset production disruptions elsewhere. Crude oil production in the United States is forecast to account for about 40% of this growth.
  • Sustained Saudi output. EIA expects Saudi Arabia to maintain elevated crude oil production of almost 10 million bbl/d into the autumn if high volumes of global production remain disrupted. Seasonally, Saudi Arabian production typically declines at the end of summer, falling in line with its declining domestic consumption, which peaks in the summer. Sustained production provides greater volumes for export, partially offsetting disruptions elsewhere.

For more information see EIA’s September Short-Term Energy Outlook and special supplement on supply disruptions, as well as EIA’s Country Analysis Briefs on Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria.

This article is a repost, credit: US Energy Information Administration, Today In Energy,

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Alstom awarded a turnkey metro project by the city of Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

August 11, 2013 in Electric Vehicles, EV News, Subway

Urbalis Fluence Copyright Alstom Transport / Mille et une images Courtesy of Alstom

Urbalis Fluence
Copyright Alstom Transport / Mille et une images
Courtesy of Alstom

Alstom, as a member of the FAST consortium(1), has received a letter of award by the Riyadh Development Authority (ADA) to provide a complete automatic and driverless metro system to equip three of the six lines to be built by the city. The total value of this project, which is financed by the Government of Saudi Arabia through the Public Investment Fund, amounts to €6 billion of which Alstom’s share represents more than €1.2 billion. The project also includes also an option for 10 years of maintenance services. Contract signature should occur within 2 to 3 months.

Riyadh counts almost 6 million inhabitants with an expected population explosion in 2030 set to increase the population to more than 8 million. The city has decided to build six new subway lines in order to reduce traffic congestion, enhance the economic dynamism of the Saudi capital and improve its inhabitants’ quality of life. One of the largest turnkey metro projects ever launched in the world, this fully automatic driverless network will be 170 km long and will include 87 stations. The network is scheduled to enter commercial service in 2018.

Alstom will provide the city of Riyadh with its fully integrated metro solution that combines company’s state-of-the-art metro sub-systems. It includes the rolling stock (69 Metropolis trains), Urbalis signaling, the energy recovery system, HESOP, as well as the fast track laying technology, Appitrack – a technology that installs tracks three times faster than traditional methods.

Each train is composed of two cars and is 100% motorized. It is about 36 meters long and 2.71m wide. This metro has three levels of comfort: First class, Family and Single. To minimize delays between trains, the Metropolis trains will be controlled by two operational control centers equipped with the Urbalis driverless system.

In order to optimize energy consumption, the traction power system will be equipped with HESOP, Alstom’s innovative reversible substation solution, which allows the energy recovered during braking to be re-used by the network.

“We are honored to have been selected by the city of Riyadh to support this major project, which will allow thousands of people to travel every day in clean, comfortable and safe conditions,” said Henri Poupart-Lafarge, President of Alstom Transport. “Alstom remains dedicated to supporting upcoming projects to answer to the increasing demand for urban mobility in the country”, he added.

This project is the first reference for Alstom Transport in the Kingdom, where other metro opportunities are coming up. Alstom has a leading historical position in the market, having built 25% of the world’s metro lines.

Metropolis trains and the infrastructure components for Riyadh will be produced at Alstom Transport’s sites in Europe.

(1)The FAST consortium includes FCC (leader), Freyssinet Saudi Arabia, Alstom, Samsung, Strukton, Setec, Typsa.

This article is a repost (press release 7-30-13), credit: Alstom,

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Phoenix Solar to build 1.8 MWp solar power plant in Saudi Arabia

July 20, 2013 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

• Saudi Aramco extends recently completed project
• Phoenix Solar to strengthen Middle East operations

Phoenix Solar Volkswagen Plant in  Chattanooga, Tennessee From 1-23-13 press release: Biggest solar installation at a U.S. auto factory  Photo courtesy of Phoenix Solar

Phoenix Solar, Volkswagen Plant in
Chattanooga, Tennessee
From 1-23-13 press release: Biggest solar installation at a U.S. auto factory
Photo courtesy of Phoenix Solar

The KAPSARC II project is contracted by Saudi Aramco, and will extend the existing solar plant from 3.5 MWp to 5.3 MWp – also built by Phoenix Solar -, making it the largest ground mounted system in the Kingdom.  The project supports KAPSARC’s objective to achieve LEED Platinum Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The system is scheduled to become operational in the first half of 2014.

Phoenix Solar Oman and Phoenix Solar Singapore, together with local project partner Hi-Technology & Contracting Company Ltd (“Hi-Tech”), will be jointly responsible for the design, procurement, construction and commissioning of the 1.8 MWp solar power plant. Upon completion the plant will cover around 2.6 hectares of desert land, and feed over 2’900 megawatt-hours a year directly into KAPSARC’s medium voltage grid.

“The Middle East is a fast growing region, with potentially high demand for solar energy in the future”, said Dr. Bernd Köhler, Chief Executive Officer of Phoenix Solar AG. “With this new order in hand we will strengthen the Oman office, which will operate with the support of Phoenix Solar Singapore. Both subsidiaries will combine experience and know-how to apply the best solutions to accommodate the harsh desert climate conditions of this region and to continue building high performance solar power plants.”

With an increasing market portfolio, Phoenix Solar continues its business expansion, strengthening at the same time its position as an international photovoltaic EPC company.

About Phoenix Solar

AG Phoenix Solar AG, which has its headquarters in Sulzemoos near Munich, is an international photovoltaic system integrator. The Group develops, plans, builds and operates large-scale photovoltaic plants and is a specialist wholesaler for turnkey power plants, solar modules and accessories. With subsidiaries on three continents, the company has sold solar modules with an output of significantly more than one gigawatt since its founding. The shares of Phoenix Solar AG (ISIN DE000A0BVU93) are listed on the official market (Prime Standard) of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

This article is a repost, credit: Phoenix Solar,

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Keystone XL: The Iconic Climate Battle. By Michael Marx, Sierra Club

June 7, 2013 in Climate Change, Environment, EV News

Photo courtesy of Sierra Club

Photo courtesy of Sierra Club

In February 50,000 people marched on the freezing Washington Mall to tell President Obama that he must reject Keystone XL and move forward on climate. Since then, Sierra Club activists and our partners have met President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry at more than 20 events around the nation to repeat the message. Hundreds of people demonstrating the escalating public opposition to Keystone XL – from 200 in Chicago, to 500 in New York City, and 1,000-plus in San Francisco. Just last week hundreds more met President Obama in Palo Alto and Santa Monica, California, and the size and momentum of these events only continues to grow as the decision on the pipeline looms closer.

It’s no accident, certainly no mistake that the fight to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has become the iconic climate issue.

And the attention and controversy we’ve generated in this fight has led to a common question, “Why Keystone XL, what’s the big deal?” Some climate activists who came late to the battle argue that it’s the wrong target. Not so. For those of us who were there at the start of the tar sands campaign seven years ago, Keystone is a brilliant target and a battle that win or lose, we win. Here are ten reasons why this has become a critical battle in the war on climate.

1. Massive. Tar sands are the third largest proven oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. If we’re going to avoid a climate disaster, we need to leave three quarters of the proven reserves of oil in the ground. We have to block development of the tar sands along with most of the rest of the proven reserves in the world or we’re cooked.

2. Landlocked. Canada’s tar sands are the largest non-nationalized proven oil reserve in the world, but it’s landlocked. Oil companies can’t expand because they can’t get their oil to market. All the pipelines in Canada are dead or blocked for at least another 6-10 years from being operative. US pipelines are the only ones that could move oil in less than two years. Tar sands investors are running out of patience after three years of delay.

3. Discounted. Tar sands are expensive to produce (approximately $70/barrel). They are also discounted (approximately $25/barrel) when sold into the US because we have a glut of oil in the Midwest due to a bottleneck at Cushing, Oklahoma. The Keystone is the critical pipeline for draining the glut, eliminating the discount, and allowing oil companies to profit. No profit, and oil investors won’t risk stranding their assets.

4. Remote. Tar sands are located in the upper NE corner of Alberta. They are a thousand miles from BC and nearly twice that from Texas. Given the expense of producing them, and the discounted price of the market, they can’t afford alternative transport. To ship by rail costs over $30/barrel, by pipeline $2. Do the math. Without pipelines like the Keystone XL, tar sands are going nowhere.

5. Market Signal. Obama is the first President to ever delay a pipeline. There are more in the cue including the Lakehead expansion in Michigan, the Alberta Clipper expansion in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the Line 9 Trailbreaker reversal through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. If KXL is rejected, it not only emboldens opponents to other pipelines in Canada and the US, but tells investors to put their money elsewhere.

6. Fierce Competition. We may hate the development of US tight oil, and many groups like us are fighting to block it, but the reality is production of tight oil in the US is skyrocketing and it’s already causing tar sands companies like Suncorp and Total to pull the plug on new upgraders and even to sell some of their operations. They can’t compete with cheaper and lighter tight oil and the window of opportunity is closing rapidly.

7. Diversity. This pipeline fight unifies a broad array of activists. It involves Canadian and US NGOs; First Nations across Canada and Native American tribes; ranchers, farmers, and landowners coerced by eminent domain to allow a pipeline on their lands; refinery communities who will be poisoned by the increase in toxic emissons; and clean tech companies and investors who remain disadvantaged by cheap oil.

8. Latent Anger. Oil companies are damn near at the top of the list of companies the public dislikes most. Poll after poll shows that Americans believe oil companies manipulate gas prices and have too much power over government. Nobody knows who supplies their electricity or natural gas, but everyone knows who’s ripping them off at the gas pump. For those who also fear climate change, the Keystone XL has ignited that anger and along with it the climate movement.

9. Singular Target. While this was supposed to be a Dept. of State decision, it’s de facto President Obama’s decision. He doesn’t need Congress. He just needs the courage to tell the American people, who know little or nothing about the KXL, the truth- i.e., that it will raise gas prices in the Midwest, make it impossible to meet our Copenhagen target of 17% reduction, and largely be turned into diesel and sold onto the international market. Climate activists believe KXL is the test of whether their President has the nerve to face down Big Oil and its Congressional puppets.

10. Frustration. Climate activists are fed up. Obama raised their expectations, then dashed them. They lost cap and trade. There is no hope of a realistic price on carbon. Oil barrens are pouring hundreds of millions into buying off Washington. The president talks a great game on climate, but the climate crisis is building, and Keystone is a singular action that the president can take tomorrow to back his bold words with action.

At the end of the day, President Obama knows that approving Keystone would be a giant step backwards. It’s not just a random battle we picked. It is a litmus test of whether he is going to be bold enough on the penultimate climate issue of our day. If he opens the door to exploitation of the tar sands, he sends the signal to oil, coal and gas companies around the world that the one president who actually got climate change, didn’t have the courage to stand up for what was right and protect the birthright of future generations—a healthy planet.

On the other hand, if the president rejects the pipeline, he sends the message to the oil industry, major institutional investors, auto and truck manufacturers, cities, states, provinces in Canada and countries that the days of oil, coal, and gas are numbered. The market is shifting, and they had best shift with it. The rejection of KXL will unleash a wave of grassroots and grasstops activists emboldened to support his efforts to adopt strict carbon rules on coal power plants, block new and properly regulate existing oil and gas fracking, stop coal, gas, and oil exports, and even begin to lay the ground for a price on carbon. It will be the victory that signals the end of the fossil fuel industry’s enormous power and influence in Washington.

Either way, KXL is a winner.

Hotter Economy and World = Better Environment Electric Car

June 7, 2013 in EV News, Oil, Politics

State Dept Image / Mar 03, 2013 / Riyadh, Saudi Arabia U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal and Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir.

State Dept Image / Mar 03, 2013 / Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal and Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir.

Oil prices climbed higher after news of a better US employment number.  WTI oil is back over $96 a barrel, and Brent is near $105.  MarketWatch reported: “The U.S. economy created a net 175,000 jobs in May, all of them in the private sector.  The increase compared with a 164,000 forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch.”  The Dow Jones surged on the news, closing up 207.5 points on the day.

Electric car sales will likely do better in a tighter oil market.  When oil rises back over $100 a barrel again, the media will run with the story.  It will be another wake-up call for the country to move beyond oil.  In general, people around the world are tired of expensive gasoline and petrol prices, so each little impetus with oil expense issues will support EV sales.  The electric car is increasingly seen as the solution by many.  Tesla’s stock price tells us that change is coming.  Today, the shares (TSLA) jumped back up into triple digits to close at $102.04 per share.

Photo courtesy of NASA/NOAA

Photo courtesy of NASA/NOAA

With the hurricane season upon us, politicians and business leaders will likely come under scrutiny as to climate change action plans.  Many people are losing patience on this issue.

World leaders of oil importing nations understand the dilemma better than most anyone.  The world needs to move from the oil era to the new clean sustainable electric era.  Due to the expense of oil, there are limits to economic growth.  Politicians should align themselves with business leaders that can provide solutions.  As time moves forward, I suspect that countries that fail will be punished in the currency markets.

The oil market is extremely fragile.  At any point along its chain from upstream to downstream, many breaks can occur.  Today, world oil demand is around 90 million barrels a day.  If you pause to think about the enormity of that figure, it helps to put things into perspective.  In addition, most of the world’s largest oil fields are old and declining.

Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, the largest oil field in the world, has been pumped aggressively since the early 1970s.  In recent months, Saudi oil production has looked suspiciously low ahead of its summer air conditioning season.  According to the Weather Channel, the high today in Riyadh was 104 degrees.  The Saudis burn as much as one million barrels of oil more a day in the summer to keep cool (EIA data, Saudi Arabia Country Analysis).

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Saudi Arabia Looks to NREL for Solar Monitoring Expertise, Source: NREL

May 25, 2013 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Saudi Arabia is planning to move aggressively into renewable energy, with plans to install more solar and wind power in the next 20 years than the rest of the world has installed to date.

NREL's Steve Wilcox at the K.A.CARE site training Saudi industry and academic personnel in solar measurements. Credit: Mike Dooraghir Courtesy of NREL

NREL’s Steve Wilcox at the K.A.CARE site training Saudi industry and academic personnel in solar measurements.
Credit: Mike Dooraghir
Courtesy of NREL

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for training and expertise in measuring its solar resource.

The importance of setting up networks to gauge and predict the strength of solar radiation in varying meteorological conditions convinced the Saudis to choose NREL as a partner.

Nine Saudi engineers spent nine days at NREL last month, studying and discussing topics as theoretical as Ångström’s law and the scatter-absorption ratio for the atmospheric effects on solar radiation, and as practical as the effect of sandstorms on solar panels. NREL experts also engaged the Saudi staff with topics including waste-to-energy, geothermal technologies, calibrations, and solar resource forecasting.

NREL and its partner Battelle will support the installation of more than 50 monitoring stations in the Middle East kingdom this year to measure the solar resource and gauge the best spots for solar power plants and will also train local Saudis to operate and maintain the instruments and stations.

It’s a crucial part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to spend billions of dollars over the next two decades to install more than 50 gigawatts of renewable power in the country and meet at least 30% of its electricity needs with solar energy by 2032. That’s more gigawatts of renewable energy than were installed in the entire world as of 2012.

The overarching goal is to double electricity capacity by 2030 and have half of that energy originate from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The kingdom is expected to write a number of large contracts in 2013 alone.

Saudi engineers join their NREL hosts for a group photo in front of NREL's Research Support Facility. The group was on a U.S. study tour to learn about deliverable renewable resource monitoring and mapping programs. Credit: Dennis Schroeder Courtesy of NREL

Saudi engineers join their NREL hosts for a group photo in front of NREL’s Research Support Facility. The group was on a U.S. study tour to learn about deliverable renewable resource monitoring and mapping programs.
Credit: Dennis Schroeder
Courtesy of NREL

Determined to Diversify

Why Saudi Arabia? Why does a nation that has huge oil reserves want to become a leader in renewable energy?

“Saudi Arabia is determined to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons,” said Wail Bamhair, the project manager for the Saudi team that visited NREL. “Renewable energy isn’t just an option, but absolutely necessary. We have the means to build renewable energy, and we need to do it.”

Because Saudi Arabia is lacking in coal and natural gas, it uses a tremendous amount of energy to desalinate water and heat turbines to bring electricity to homes and businesses. Electricity is particularly in high demand during the Saudi summer when temperatures routinely top 110 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioners are rumbling. Economists have suggested that a big move into renewable energy can strengthen Saudi Arabia’s economy and free up millions of extra barrels of oil for export. Bamhair said that while Saudi Arabia has a lot of sun, it also has challenges such as a variable climate, sandstorms, and even the occasional snowstorm in the northern regions. He shared photos he took of a sandstorm that in a few short minutes plunged an afternoon into darkness along a busy thoroughfare near the capital, Riyadh.

“We are working hand-in-hand with experts from NREL and Battelle who have these amazing minds,” Bamhair said. “We are looking for them to build our human capacity. We are here to see, to learn, and to transfer the knowledge.”

Forty years ago, Saudi Arabia had a population of about 5 million mostly nomadic people. Now, it’s home to 27.5 million people, and most live in cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.

NREL validating a rotating shadowband radiometer at the K.A.CARE headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Credit: Mike Dooraghi Courtesy of NREL

NREL validating a rotating shadowband radiometer at the K.A.CARE headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Credit: Mike Dooraghi
Courtesy of NREL

Building a New City to Support Renewables

Saudi Arabia has envisioned a new organization to bring together researchers and manufacturing facilities for the renewable energy push. It is called the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, or K.A.CARE. Nancy Carlisle, director of NREL’s Integrated Applications Center, and her team also are assisting the Saudis by providing expert insight into lab design and how it can integrate with the city.

“The king and the kingdom recognize that it’s important to look at non-fossil energy sources,” said Tom Stoffel, NREL’s group leader for Solar Resources and Forecasting.

The Saudi government is paying for the projects. In NREL’s case, the parties will sign “Work for Others” agreements in which the American taxpayer pays nothing, but the general knowledge learned can later be used again to help improve renewable energy technologies  in the United States.

Saudi Arabia and NREL have worked together before. In the 1990s, NREL helped launch research centers for the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology that was established in 1977.

The new partnership grew out of a visit by Saudi officials in 2010, which included a typical guest tour of the Solar Radiation Research Laboratory at NREL’s Mesa Top facilities. Stoffel noticed his visitors were paying very close attention. “At the end of the tour, one of them asked us if we could help put 100 to 200 monitoring stations in the kingdom,” Stoffel said. “After I picked up my jaw, I said, ‘Yes, that’s what we do.’” NREL is the site of an annual internal gathering to recalibrate solar radiometers and maintains the calibration standard for the United States.

Mike Dooraghi works with engineers from K.A.CARE to install a rotating shadowband radiometer at the Al-Uyaynah Research Station near Riyadh. Credit: Steve Wilcox Courtesy of NREL

Mike Dooraghi works with engineers from K.A.CARE to install a rotating shadowband radiometer at the Al-Uyaynah Research Station near Riyadh.
Credit: Steve Wilcox
Courtesy of NREL

Solar Monitoring Key to Knowing Resource, Engaging Stakeholders

Saudi Arabia eventually decided to put the project out for bid. NREL, partnering with Battelle, won the contract.

“The kingdom is tapping into our expertise on climatology, geography, and population density to make the best decisions on where to put the monitoring stations and the solar power plants,” NREL Senior Engineer Stephen Wilcox said.

“They wanted to do this quickly because they need to demonstrate to stakeholders and potential investors a kingdom-size capacity for renewable energy,” Stoffel said. NREL’s measurements “will help decide where to put a central photovoltaic power plant, or a concentrating solar power plant of a particular size,” he added.

Wilcox and NREL colleague Michael Dooraghi have already set up three solar measurement stations in Saudi Arabia as part of an initial training and outreaching event, including one in Riyadh, one just outside Riyadh, and one near where the new city will be built, about a 45-minute drive from the current K.A.CARE headquarters in Riyadh. Tripods holding several solar monitoring instruments are anchored either in the ground or on heavy concrete ballasts.

“It’s important that they know precisely what the solar resource is so the financial stakeholders can know exactly what kind of return to expect,” Wilcox said. “The more uncertainty in the measurements, the more uncertainty there is in the analysis. They could either make $100 million or lose $100 million based on how well the measurements are taken.”

Some of the stations will be research quality, using instruments similar to the best ones at NREL.

Others will be self-contained stations that are powered by photovoltaics (PV) and placed farther into the deserts or even some of the lesser-known areas of the kingdom. Crews will stop by every week or two to do maintenance on those stations.

A third type of station will be simpler yet, measuring just a subset of the factors that the larger stations measure. Those stations, though, play a crucial role in getting the whole climactic picture, including determining the role of microclimates and the impacts of large clouds passing by central solar power stations.

“We’re trying to put together the best measurement network in the world,” Wilcox said.

Mapping and Monitoring All Over the Globe

NREL’s solar and wind resource assessment teams have mapped these renewable energy resources in several countries around the world.

For Saudi Arabia, the resource mapping will help officials decide where to put the large stations and where to distribute the smaller ones.

The data the stations collect can also be compared to other data NREL has collected around the world in its solar and wind integration studies. These data will be incorporated into the K.A.CARE Renewable Resource Atlas, currently under development by Battelle as part of the same project, and will be available online for researchers and others to use. Among the information will be data on solar radiation, the solar spectrum, temperature, dust levels, humidity, and wind speeds.

“They need to know about variability to maintain a stable grid – and that means making good predictions about what the next three minutes, the next hour, the next three days are going to look like,” Wilcox said.

The fact that the Saudi king can order a huge nationwide project has its advantages. The United States and other countries can learn rather quickly what a full-scale embrace of renewable energy will look like in terms of planning, cost, and avoiding surges on the electricity grid or other mistakes.

Dr. Maher Alodan, head of the Research, Development, and Innovation Team at K.A.CARE, said last year that the project is a crucial one. Identifying primary sources of energy is a critical first step. “Undertaking such a project will require a comprehensive study that can only be carried out successfully if we know the specific geographic locations, and most importantly, the quality of solar radiation, and the factors that may affect the available resource.”

At NREL last month, Bahmair said: “Our dream is to move Saudi Arabia to the first rank of nations in terms of sustainable energy. We have the smart young people, but we are looking to NREL and Battelle to share their expertise.

“This is the time for it,” Bamhair added. “And NREL is the right facility to help us move forward. They are opening the door – and we have to walk through it.”

Concentrating Solar Power to Play Critical Role

The Saudis also plan to make a big leap into concentrating solar power (CSP), the cousin of solar PV technology. In fact, 25 of the 41 gigawatts of planned solar energy will come from CSP.

PV panels convert photons from the sun directly into electrons for electricity, but only work when the sun is shining. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect the sun’s heat. This thermal energy can then be used to drive a steam turbine that produces electricity.

CSP can store that heat in molten salts for up to 15 hours and can thus team with PV to help bring electricity to homes and businesses when it’s most needed – in the evening hours when the sun has set, but the appliances, TVs, and air conditioners are still in demand. NREL’s recent paper on that capacity, Enabling Greater Penetration of Solar Power via Use of CSP with Thermal Energy Storage, has sparked renewed interest in the two solar technologies sharing the load.

“The first project – installing the monitoring stations – is important for the CSP piece, too, because CSP depends on knowing the measure of clean-sky radiation,” NREL’s Scott Huffman said.

NREL will be overseeing the installation of the solar monitoring stations. The K.A.CARE Renewable Energy Atlas will be ready for access by late summer, with the full monitoring network in place before the end of the year.

Learn more about NREL’s solar radiation research.

This article is a repost, credit: Bill Scanlon (5-13-13), National Renewable Energy Laboratory,