Middle East Solar course is set, despite soaring gas and oil prices

The current political landscape has seen Western nations  scrambling to secure energy stocks, with much of this demand falling to the Middle East to supply, leading to surging oil and gas prices that have created the kind of seller’s market the world has not seen in decades.

However, nobody for a moment believes that this will reverse the global trend of weaning countries off hydrocarbon-based fuels.

Accordingly, there is a need to speed up the global energy transition to clean energy, namely renewables. The climate change imperative is more menacing than ever, with scientists warning that it’s ‘now or never’ if we want to limit the overall warming of the Earth to 1.5 degrees.

With global investments in renewables, carbon capture technologies and green finance vehicles all on the rise, it’s clear that the energy transition remains uppermost in the minds of business and political leaders. As you can see from the solar news roundup below, this need to accelerate renewable energy generation is a boon for solar, since it is one of the most scalable renewable types.

Solar milestones and breakthroughs this month

Bahrain ups solar manufacturing muscle: Bahrain’s current solar generation capacity is a drop in the ocean for an island state where gas dominates its domestic energy mix. However, with reports that Bahrain’s oil reserves may run dry within the next decade, diversifying its economy and energy provision capacity is essential.

Solar One, Bahrain's first solar panels company has boosted its capacity to produce 60,000 solar panels a year. These are mostly sold to Bahraini schools, homes or factories, to boost domestic renewables. This is an important step in reaching the national target of renewables providing 5% of the country's energy supply by 2025.

Saudi Arabia – Modelling study shows solar panels could increase rainfall in arid regions: As solar panels absorb sunlight and create solar energy, they heat up. A research team from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia have theorised that with a large enough solar installation, their combined heat may be enough to change the reflectiveness of the land enough to strengthen sea breezes to the point that it would dramatically increase rainfall in the surrounding area. While theoretical, this proof-of-concept study is of avid interest to Middle Eastern governments, all of whom are battling the long-term challenge of water security. If proven, this may further boost the desirability of creating large-scale solar installations, as they would produce clean energy while also creating much-needed freshwater supplies for parched regions.

Saudi Arabia – 1GW of solar investment packages awarded: True to its energy strategy claims, Saudi Arabia is accelerating the initiation and deployment of new solar installation projects. Together, the latest round of project tenders include the 80MW Layla solar PV IPP, the 120MW Wadi al-Dawassir solar PV IPP, and the massive 700MW Al-Rass solar PV IPP. Investment in the largest of these proposed new solar facilities is estimated to be over $453 million.

Dubai – New tracker technology boosts solar production up to 30%: Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is expecting a productivity bump of almost a third, thanks to the use of the latest photovoltaic bifacial technology. Together with a machine-learning based software algorithm, this technology allows solar panels to track the sun and automatically position themselves to harvest the most sunlight possible, whatever the changing conditions in shade and diffused light throughout the day. MBRAMS Park is still the biggest single solar installation in the world, currently producing 900MW of solar energy, though its planned total capacity is set to reach 5,000MW by 2030.

California – Next-gen solar cells may make batteries obsolete: California-based startup Ambient Photonics, and other key players, believe that new one-inch solar cells may hold the key to permanently replacing batteries in everyday household appliances. This new class of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are capable of powering even sophisticated personal devices in indoor light conditions. If their efficiency and reliability levels can be proven to be high enough for widespread commercial use, this may solve a decades-old problem of waste associated with disposable batteries.

Global – Rooftop solar installations may nearly double in next three years: Analysis from Rystad Energy suggests that the world’s rooftop solar PV capacity may double to reach 94.7GW by 2025. Ten years ago, rooftop solar was still a niche development in the overall solar industry, due to the tiny scale of individual installations and general inefficiencies in how its harvested energy was added to the grid. Rystad’s report points towards friendly policies and incentives for the surge in rooftop solar adoption, as governments make it easier and more financially attractive for households and businesses to participate in solar energy generation.

ME Solar boom is set for next five years

Even against the backdrop of surging oil and gas prices, the future of solar investment and development looks brighter than ever. Current events make it plain that that hydrocarbons will remain a necessary part of the world’s energy mix for decades to come, while also highlighting the dangers of overreliance on them.

The global energy transition is a set course for overcoming both the political and environmental challenges associated with energy security. Energy demand continues to soar worldwide, and the Middle East’s natural response is to accelerate its destiny as a net exporter of solar energy and expertise.

A report from SolarPower Europe points towards these factors, and others, as the foundation for a solar boom in the region over the next five years. With Saudi Arabia aiming to add 9.5GW by the end of next year, and Jordan and Egypt well positioned for timely solar capacity surges, it’s an exciting time to watch the industry thrive in the Middle East.