Saudi Arabia Uses Your Gas Dollars To Fund...Solar Energy

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Solar Panels by Flickr user Chandra Marsono

Solar Panels by Flickr user Chandra Marsono

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Renewable energy, especially solar, is making inroads into the U.S. power grid, but it's a very slow process.

And especially in the wake of the Solyndra collapse, it's one fraught with political wrangling.

But there's another country that plans to invest heavily in solar power, hoping to provide fully 30 percent of its energy needs from the sun in just 20 years.

That country is...Saudi Arabia.

Yes, the conservative kingdom and longtime U.S. ally wants to cut its own oil use.

Today, Saudi Arabia burns 850 million barrels of oil a year. That represents almost a third of its total production.

Later this year, the nation is expected to approve very ambitious plans for a massive array of renewable energy projects. The first installations should be completed next year.

The goal within two decades is for the country to have 25,000 megawatts of electricity coming rom solar-thermal plants, which use huge mirror arrays to focus sunshine into a concentrated ray that heats fluid into steam to drive turbine generators.

It also expects to create 16,000 megawatts of capacity using large arrays of photovoltaic solar cells, which are slowly but consistently falling in price as more production capacity comes online--particularly in China, which has made the industry a government priority.

Saudi Arabia also plans to add an additional 21,000 megawatts from other non-oil sources, including geothermal, wind, and nuclear plants.

The entire plan is expected to cost $109 billion, for which the country is seeking investment partners.

Industry analysts say the country can earn a healthy return on the investment by displacing a third of the oil it now consumes and selling that on the open market.

In other words, one of our major sources of imported oil thinks that spending more than $100 billion to cut its own oil consumption is a good deal--because we'll pay them more than that for the oil they don't use.

The next time U.S. drivers pay $4 a gallon or more for gasoline, that may be worth keeping in mind.


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Comments (8)
  1. The conservatives will think that Saudi is getting "progressive"...

    They are just hedging against their "oil less" future.

  2. Solar is a great solution for a desert where cost is no object.

  3. Solar is great for those who can do math and see that the relatively high first cost is money well spent.

  4. More unsubstantiated attacks on solar, with the usual lack of data supporting the claims. In other words, James Eckler.

    Try Googling solar/wind power/alternative energy and Germany or Spain, James. Perhaps then you could write from knowledge and not from your usual lack thereof...

  5. Rather than pumping miles from the ground and using complex chemical processes to turn that into miles in your car - you can "absorb" miles from the sky and power cars that way. Good luck to SA. It's the right way to use their riches for future decades.

  6. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Why wouldn't a nation take advantage of free unlimited energy? Sure there are start up costs, but there are start up and maintenance costs to set up oil extraction and transportation infrastruture also.

  7. More and more US based solar manufacturers go into bankruptcy while some countries sell gas to us and use our money to fund renewable energy projects. We should try to use our own resources more and to recycle waste. Did you know that it`s incredibly easy and cheap to build diy solar panels for home heating by recycling old pop cans? You can have free home solar heating with the help of home-made beer-can solar panels...

  8. John: John, John, John a website monitor always ask me were did you get your facts! Ok, where did you get your facts. The CIA data lists installed capacity at 44500 megawatts and power consumed 21000 megawatt. Why would they build 72000 megawatts which is 160 percent of present day capacity. They also produce 99.2 billion cu m of natural gas which they do not export. Why would they use any oil producing electricity?

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