|Fig. 1: Electricity demand in Saudi Arabia showing base and cyclic loads, normally filled by gas and crude oil burning, and the daily peak swing, which is filled by either burning more crude oil or diesel in remote areas.  (Source: B. Al-Rumaih)|
Demand for domestic power in Saudi Arabia is forecast to double in the next 15 years to over 70 GW during peak conditions. [1,2] If current constraints of gas supply continue, two million barrels of oil per day will have to be burned to fuel most of this demand - equivalent to 5 new refineries or $40 billion annually of import cost.
This looming energy shortage requires the Kingdom to not only focus on energy conservation and efficiency but also begin diversifying into renewable resources. The most applicable alternative energy resources that could be considered are solar, wind, and geothermal.
Based on the Kingdom's natural advantages, solar, wind, and geothermal are arguably the most suitable options. It is well understood that no sole alternative source will be the solution. A renewable energy mix plus fossil fuels might be needed to meet the growing energy demand. It is recognized that wind and geothermal have good potential primarily in the western region of the kingdom. However, a comprehensive resource assessment is necessary to prove such commercial viability. Potential for solar energy in the kingdom was assessed by satellite measurements, which indicated that it can provide an abundant source of energy. There are three natural advantages that the kingdom has which makes solar energy particularly applicable:
The Sun: The kingdom has one of the highest irradiation levels on Earth.
The abundant land - necessary for largescale solar parks.
The availability of high silica white sand - a vital raw material for solar cell manufacturing.
According to figures published by the World Bank, daily demand peak swing in Saudi Arabia, illustrated in Fig. 1, is around 2 gigawatts.  This could reach up to 5 gigawatts in the next 15 years. Fortunately, solar power is most cost effective when utilized during these peak swing periods as:
It performs best during the sunniest time of the day.
Electricity demand peaks during sunniest time of the day.
The most expensive conventional power supply is during these peak times.
Hence, solar energy could be a great way for peak load shaving as it is most effective during peak demand periods.
© Badr Al-Rumaih. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 "Exploring the Potential For Electricity Trade and Interconnection Among Yemen and GCC Countries," World Bank, 53047-MNA, October 2009.
 B. Fattouh, "Summer Again: The Swing in Oil Demand in Saudi Arabia," Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, July 2013.