Nature Middle East | House of Wisdom

The potential for solar energy in the UAE

Steve Griffiths

Steve Griffiths

Taking into account the rising cost of fossil fuels, the United Arab Emirates could economically generate more than 20GW of electricity from solar energy by 2030, said Steve Griffiths, executive director of Institute Initiatives at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi.

Griffiths predicts that the Middle East will be investing over US$250 billion by 2017 to produce over 120GW of clean energy. This will include energy from natural gas, nuclear energy and renewable sources. This, however, will depend on having clear, transparent policies that stimulate deployment.

He contends that solar energy could be an important, currently under-utilized source of energy in the region, which is among the sunniest in the world. “However, there is a strong need to translate technical potentials to economic benefits to guide solar energy policy development that will stimulate solar energy technology deployment,” he added. “A sustainable energy strategy considering both demand and supply side considerations will be required for the MENA region.”

The best way forward for solar energy, Griffiths suggested, would be a mixture of both photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies. Currently, PV is the cheaper option in most places around the world, while CSP has the advantage of being coupled with thermal storage. “PV can be utilized particularly well in the Gulf to meet the peak mid-day demand from cooling loads. CSP can be utilized for supplying late day or early evening demand, which is particularly relevant in countries where peak demand does not always correspond with good solar resource conditions in the mid-day.”

Griffiths made his comments on a panel discussion during the 5th Middle East & North Africa Solar Conference & Expo (MENASOL 2013), held 14-15 May in Dubai, UAE.

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