Sunday, August 31, 2008


Abu Dhabi: Solar energy is the way to go for the UAE, an expert on renewable energy has advised.

Ray Noble, Director of BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaics) and a former UK government advisor on renewable energy, was addressing developers and members from the construction industry at a seminar titled "Global warming and its solutions".

"The planet is a very clever thing. It can repair itself, provided you don't go too far," he said, pointing out the critical need to act now against global warming. Many people believe that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming. Analysing this, together with the fact that over two billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, leads to the conclusion that fuel needs are in some way related to global warming, Noble explained, adding that the future is for renewable energy and gases, predominantly hydrogen.

While wind and marine energy are not the right answer for the UAE, solar energy is the ideal option, he said. "The UAE gets some of the highest amounts of light from the sun compared to anywhere in the world."

There are two ways of tapping into solar energy. By using Photovoltaic (PV) or solar cells to directly convert sunlight into electricity or by using solar energy to heat water and then to use the steam to generate electricity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Friendship for a cause - can it materialize?

NEW DELHI: While bilateral relations between Pakistan and India may not be very cordial at the moment, businessmen across the border have found a new area for collaboration - alternate energy.

About 30 Pakistani companies sent representatives to Delhi during the Renewable Energy Expo 2008 that ended on Saturday to scout for new technology and expertise to skirt over chronic energy shortage in that country.

"We had 38 businessmen from Pakistan with various business interests," said Waqar Ahmed, managing director of Business Horizons, the trade promotion group that brought the Pakistani delegation to India.

Ahmed said Pakistani business houses were either looking at setting up of power plants to feed into the national grid, or set up captive plants for their own units.

Making the visit were some of Pakistan's top companies that included Sapphire group, which runs 13 textile weaving and spinning mills, travel company Sitara that also has subsidiaries in Canada and Uzbekistan, the Crescent Group with multiple business interests such as oil exploration, financial services and textiles, and Pakistan's second largest textiles group Gulistan.

Interestingly, the day the Delhi expo was inaugurated, leading Pakistani financial paper Business Recorder had published a two-page supplement on event.

Reports in the Pakistani media say the electricity shortfall was as high as 7,000 MW this summer after 24 power generating units stopped operations due a severe shortage of furnace oil.

Pakistan has a target to generate at least 9,700 MW through renewable energy by 2030, or about five percent of its installed capacity.

"The government has already issued 93 letters of intent to private companies for setting up wind power projects," said Ahmed.

The 93 projects will have a generation capacity of about 4,600 MW.

Sitara Chemicals Industries, which operates the largest chemicals complex in Pakistan, has ambitious plans that hinge on the ability to secure a reliable source of energy.

"We are already running a 80 MW plant, which supplies electricity to the complex and the state power board. We need to generate 50 MW at least, which may go up to 200 MW," Sitara Chemicals chief executive Muhammad Adrees told IANS.

The head of the Rs 140 crore company is keen to import Indian technology, as he felt "there was an affinity to the ground conditions in Pakistan".

Preliminary talks have been held with several companies, including Tata BP Solar. "We have not yet decided to set up a renewable energy power plant, but still exploring our options," said Adrees.

The Sitara group already has an Indian connection, having sourced two chemical plants from here. "Right now, we have 20 Indians working in our complex in connection with setting up these two plants," said Adrees.

It is still logistically a challenge to import equipment from India. "When we had to get our machinery from Delhi, it had to be routed through Mumbai to reach Karachi port. If we could have transported directly by road from Delhi, it would have saves costs," he said.

India has been ranked third on the Ernst and Young Renewable Energy attractiveness model. The country has an installed capacity of 12,600 MW, out of which about 8,700 MW is generated through wind power.

By 2011, it hopes to increase the total generation from renewable energy to 14,000 MW. As per government targets, renewable energy will account for 10 per cent of total power generation by 2012 and 20 per cent by 2020.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Saudi Arabia Of Solar Energy

The Saudi Arabia Of Solar Energy will be "Saudi Arabia" itself.

Very interesting read regarding the future potential of Solar Energy generation in (and transmission from) in Saudi Arabia...

In the wake of the first Gulf War, the U.S. Army assessed Saudi Arabia's solar energy resource potential in a classified effort to determine how oil fires had affected the region.

The results were clear and surprising. In addition to being a vast petroleum repository, the desert nation was also the heart of the most potentially productive region on the planet for harvesting power from the sun. In other words, Saudi Arabia was the Saudi Arabia of solar energy.

Sitting in the center of the so-called Sun Belt, the country is part of a vast, rainless region reaching from the western edge of North Africa to the eastern edge of Central Asia that boasts the best solar energy resources on Earth. With the cost of oil skyrocketing, this belt is attracting the attention of a growing number of European leaders, who are embracing an ambitious proposal to harvest this solar energy for their nations.

The irony is inescapable and the story a familiar one, as the developed world again turns to the less developed countries in hopes of powering their economies. More important, it highlights an unappreciated implication of a solar-powered economy: The end of the oil age will not necessarily bring an end to the ugly geopolitics, resource wars and national rivalries that oil created.

The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation, or TREC, is the brainchild of a consortium led by the controversial Club of Rome and includes influential members like the German Aerospace Bureau and several universities in Europe and the Middle East.

TREC is spearheading a political initiative to build a so-called transmission supergrid by concentrating solar thermal power plants, wind turbines and long distance power lines to supply energy to Europe. The proposed power plants would simultaneously provide energy to seawater desalination plants in the Middle East and North Africa.

While the wild-eyed scheme might seem better suited for conspiracy theories than reality, it has attracted a growing number of impressive and powerful backers. In 2007, Prince El Hassan of Jordan, who has called for implementing the plan with an Apollo-like program, presented the plan during a European Union parliamentary session. Nicolas Sarkozy, the recently elected President of France, and U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown have both publicly endorsed the supergrid project in recent weeks.

In July, Sarkozy hosted the inaugural meeting of the "Union for the Mediterranean" in Paris. The Union, which seeks to promote relations between North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, considers TREC's solar energy proposal one of its top priorities. Meanwhile, the escalating conflict in Georgia, which has exposed the extent of Europe's energy insecurity, has undoubtedly increased the TREC plan's appeal.

While TREC's plan is nowhere near becoming a reality, it seems inevitable that, in one form or another, someone will try to capitalize on the vast solar energy resources available in the sun-soaked countries of the Sun Belt.

While it is technically possible to convert sunlight into electricity anywhere, it costs far less to do so in areas that receive the most powerful forms of sunlight--sunlight that loses the least amount of radiant energy while moving from space to earth. The Sun Belt receives the lion's share of this energy-rich sunlight.

While speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, Spain, in July, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden, one of Europe's leading energy authorities, said that less than 0.4% of the solar energy that falls on the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East would satisfy all of Europe's energy needs.

The opportunity isn't lost on Sun Belt countries. In March, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Nuaimi, said the country hopes to become as expert with solar energy as it is with oil. While Saudi Arabia has long toyed with solar power for small projects, such as a 1980s "Solar Village" program to develop the use of the technology in remote regions, its aspirations appear to be growing.

"For a country like Saudi Arabia ... one of the most important sources of energy to look at and to develop is solar energy," al-Nuaimi told the French oil newsletter Petrostrategies. "One of the research efforts that we are going to undertake is to see how we make Saudi Arabia a center for solar energy research, and hopefully over the next 30 to 50 years we will be a major megawatt exporter."

In Hassi R'mel, Algeria, 260 miles south of Algiers, construction has begun on a new power plant using a combination of solar and natural gas. The hope is to generate 150 megawatts of electricity by 2010, with 25 megawatts from a solar array stretching nearly 2 million square feet. The long-term goal is to export more than 6,000 megawatts of solar-generated power to Europe by 2020.

"Our potential in thermal solar power is four times the world's energy consumption, so you can have all the ambitions you want with that," Tewfik Hasni, managing director of New Energy Algeria, or NEAL, a company created by the Algerian government in 2002 to develop renewable energy, told the Associated Press last year.

This is why, barring a major technological breakthrough, the economics of solar energy may someday look much like the economics of fossil fuels. Energy security ultimately means more than access to energy; it means access to cheap energy. And like it or not, the Sun Belt has the cheapest solar energy in the world in vast quantities.

"In the same way we are an oil exporter," said Saudi Arabia's Ali al-Nuaimi, "we can also be an exporter of power."

By William Pentland (