Exporting the Sun: The Future of Solar Power in the Middle East
With the world shifting towards a more conscious approach to living, Middle Eastern nations that have relied for years on oil exports are seeking green, renewable alternatives.
When it comes to sunshine, the MENA region is blessed with plenty of it, and instead of letting such a rich resource go to waste, today, more and more Arab countries are sensing a change in the air. For example, Egypt has just opened up Benban Solar Park, one of the largest in the world, while the UAE is currently working on Noor Abu Dhabi Power Plant, which will be the largest in the world once it opens.
Heliogen, one clean energy company backed by tech tycoon Bill Gates, predicts that in the upcoming 10 years, the sun will be the region’s biggest export.
“[Saudi Arabia and the UAE] have the money, they have the land, they have the sun, they have the will, they talk such a great story of their vision for how they want to transform their economy,” Bill Gross, founder and chief executive of Heliogen, told The National in an interview. “They will still be making fuel, it will just be the fuel that didn’t come from digging. It will be the fuel that came out of the air, from water and air.”
Heliogen offers clients state-of-the-art technology, through which a water molecule can be split to make 100 percent fossil-free fuels such as hydrogen or syngas.
Even though concentrated solar power has been generated before, it has never reached a high enough temperature to be utilized in the production of cement and steel. The energy produced from Heliogen can be turned into fuel, which can be used in the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals.
More than 1,600 countries have voiced their willingness to invest in Heliogen’s technology since it was first unveiled almost a month ago.
“We are days away from 2020 and the decade of the 2020s is going to be a decade where we make or break it,” said Gross.“This is so big I can’t do it all myself. I just want to show people there’s a way. I hope people steal this idea.”