A 2GW solar plant that will be the largest in Saudi Arabia and among the biggest planned in the Middle East is due to be operating by the end of 2025, marking another step in the oil-rich kingdom’s plans to create a huge green power base at home while continuing to supply the rest of the world with fossil fuels.
Saudi developer ACWA Power and a unit of the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) will jointly own the giant PV facility in Al Shuaibah, Makkah province, and signed a power purchase agreement for its output with the Saudi Power Procurement Company.
The Al Shuaibah project is the largest yet confirmed as Saudi Arabia attempts to propel itself from a current renewables base of around 1GW to 58.7GW by 2030 – supplying 50% of the nation’s power – of which some 40GW is expected to be solar PV supported by 16GW of wind power.
The kingdom has begun a programme of tenders – the latest will award power deals for 3.3GW of wind and solar – and ACWA is already helping develop the 1.5GW Sudair solar project. Saudi Arabia is also aiming to install massive wind and solar capacity, some of it dedicated to green hydrogen production, at its epic, $500bn Neom future city on the Red Sea.
Al Shuaibah joins other massive projects planned across the Middle East, including the multi-phase Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park that aims to install 5GW of PV and concentrating solar power by 2030.
“Solar power is a key component in unlocking positive economic, environmental and social outcomes for the betterment of communities across our great nation,” said ACWA chairman Mohammad Abunayyan.
However, some analysts have questioned Saudi Arabia’s ability to hit the ambitious 2030 goal, given the scale of the build-out needed and a track record of the kingdom announcing previous green energy targets that then failed to materialise.
The latest project also underlines the contrast between Saudi Arabia’s ambitious domestic green agenda and its ongoing role as a massive exporter of fossil fuels to the rest of the world.
The kingdom was widely reported as one of the leading voices against attempts to include more ambitious goals of fossil fuel phase-outs at the COP27 climate summit that ended recently in Egypt.