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Saudi Arabia Plans $109 Billion Boost for Solar Power

Saudi Arabia plans to produce electricity from its first nuclear plant by 2020 and begin operating a solar farm by 2015, said an official at the agency developing the country’s renewable energy program.

The country will start work on its first solar-power facility early next year, which may take as much as 24 months to complete, Khalid al-Suliman, vice president at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, told the state-owned Saudi Press Agency.

Al-Suliman said the project will get underway once the government approves his agency’s plan for renewable energy. He told the press agency yesterday that he expects to receive official approval early next year.

Saudi Arabia, which is tapping renewable energy as a way to free more crude oil for export, is planning for $109 billion in investment to create a solar industry that generates a third of the nation’s electricity by 2032.

The world’s largest crude oil exporter targets 41,000 megawatts of solar capacity within two decades, according to the plan that was announced in May. Al-Suliman said 16,000 megawatt of that will be generated from photovoltaic panels. The rest comes from solar-thermal technology, which use mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on heating fluids that turns a power turbine.

Al-Suliman said that they want renewables and nuclear reactors to supply half of the Kingdom’s electricity in the coming two decades. Solar would supply a fifth of that energy.

Saudi Arabia currently has about 3 megawatts of solar installations, trailing Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Nuclear Mix

The vice president for the organization known as Ka-care said officials are considering options to generate electricity from nuclear energy and they will decide next year on the percentage of nuclear power in the country’s future energy mix.

Al-Suliman said in May that Saudi Arabia would build 16 nuclear reactors by 2030 with a capacity of 14,000 megawatts of electricity. He didn’t discuss costs.

The desert-Kingdom may spend $100 billion to build 17 nuclear reactors over the coming two decades to produce electricity, the Saudi Press Agency said, citing unnamed experts. The cost of developing the reactors is similar to an earlier estimate by officials from Ka-Care.

The country signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with China in January, following three accords signed last year with France, South Korea, and Argentina.

To contact the reporter on this story: Wael Mahdi in Manama at wmahdi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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