The Middle East/North Africa region (MENA) possesses nearly 60% of the world’s oil reserves and 45% of natural gas reserves. However, leaders in the region have also made great progress in taking advantage of another abundant natural resource – sunlight.
One example comes from the ambitious DESERTEC program; which aims to satisfy 15% of European electricity demands as well as domestic demand in the MENA region by 2050 through installation of massive concentrated solar power plants. Considering the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun in six hours than the entire planet consumes in a year, the potential here is enormous, says Dr. Gerhard Knies, Chairman of the DESERTEC Board of Trustees.
Desalination provides another impetus for the increased use of renewable energy. The average amount of water available per person globally is about 7000 cubic meters a year, but in the MENA region that figure is only 1200 cubic meters a year. Water shortage is a growing concern for the region, and securing reliable supplies is integral to sustained economic growth. This has led to increased interest in renewable-powered desalination plants, evidenced by the recently announced partnership between IBM and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia. This joint venture aims to build a water desalination plant powered by ultra-high concentrating PV technology capable of operating at a power equivalent to 1500 suns.
Read more for country-by-country advances in this growing sector…