The Arabian Peninsula has been a barren land that could only support nomadic herding since ancient times but in the Primordial Age it was a fertile and shallow sea and, after geological changes, it came to contained a large amount of oil. In the 20th century, it became an important area affecting world history, strategy, and economy. However, the world is moving towards decarbonization and rejecting fossil fuels and, even if it does not, the oil will run out one day.
In the green energy era, a desert in the Arabian Peninsula has once again become a source of energy but this time it is not the ground, but the sky, or solar energy. Due to the clear sky and sunshine, the vast wasteland has just become the best area for the development of solar energy. Gulf countries headed by Saudi Arabia, which are actively thinking about energy transformation, naturally regard solar energy as the focus of transformation. Saudi Arabia's current solar power generation capacity is very limited at only 455 megawatts and it is officially drawing up a large-scale solar power plan to increase capacity to nearly 40 gigawatts by 2025 and total renewable energy generation capacity will reach 60 gigawatts by 2030. There are many large-scale plans being pushed across the country, including the US$500 billion New Future City (NEOM) project, 20-40 GW of solar power, and a US$5 billion green hydrogen plant, as well as the Red Sea project with 400 megawatts of solar power, paired with the world's largest independent renewable energy grid storage scheme.
At the same time as the large-scale construction of solar farms, Saudi Arabia also wants to take the opportunity to become a solar energy producer. It will build 23 solar panel factories in 12 industrial cities, with a planned total annual production capacity of 1.2 GW.
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, a country that generates half of its revenue from oil, continues to rely on oil to finance the country's large-scale projects, while hoping to rely on these projects to replace oil revenue in the future. Large-scale programs across the country are set to help Saudi Arabia reach net zero carbon emissions by 2060 and Saudi Arabia can also use these carbon reduction plans to issue green bonds. In addition, Saudi Arabia also adopts the concept of a carbon circular economy and plans to plant trees on a large scale.
Other Gulf countries have similar plans. The Al Kharsaah solar project in Qatar (see first picture) has a power generation capacity of 800 megawatts and is scheduled to be completed and come online in mid-2022. The Sid Dubai Solar Park project, as well as the 2 GW Di Hafra solar project, will come online in 2030.
Other MENA countries like Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia have similar plans. In addition to the advantages of sunshine resources in terms of latitude and climate, the Persian Gulf and neighboring countries in the Middle East and North Africa are also located in the geographical location that intersects Europe, Asia, and Africa, which is a great advantage conducive to exporting solar energy to European countries. Countries are gearing up and it is expected that solar power generation capacity in the Middle East and North Africa will reach 8.309 GW in 2022.
Led by Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Oman, and Qatar, these countries not only develop solar energy but also actively introduce auxiliary technologies including energy storage and other renewable energy auxiliary technologies such as artificial intelligence. The Saudi smart grid market is expected to reach US$3.6 billion by 2030. Middle East and North African countries are also facing immediate threats from climate change and higher and higher temperatures in recent years, with Kuwait recording a high of 54°C. In any case, countries need to prepare for the post-oil era and super-large-scale renewable energy plans are imperative. However, solar energy also has hidden concerns in the Middle East and North Africa. Sand and dust will cause the panels to need cleaning frequently and solar power generation efficiency will decrease in high temperatures, which will become the target of technology research and development.