Partners Khaled Juffali Company (KJC), a Saudi Arabian investment company, and Soitec, a world leader in semiconductor materials for the electronics and energy industries, have announced that the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), a global petroleum and chemicals company owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has decided to use Soitec’s concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology for a 1-megawatt solar-energy pilot plant in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern Tabuk region.
- This project with world’s largest oil producer Saudi Aramco aims to test CPV technology for future utility-scale installations
This project with the world’s largest oil producer is the first business win for KJC and Soitec since the two companies signed a joint agreement in April to cooperate in driving solar-industry growth in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
Following a competitive tender process and a rigorous evaluation of various equipment suppliers, the oil and chemical giant selected Soitec’s CPV technology based on its perfect fit with the region. Saudi Aramco’s two-fold objective for this project is to successfully complete the work on schedule while testing the performance of CPV technology to better assess its levelized cost of energy (LCOE) advantage for future utility-scale installations.
BELECTRIC Saudi Arabia LLC, a worldwide leader in the development and construction of utility-scale solar power plants, has developed the project based on Soitec’s technology and will build the plant. BELECTRIC has connected more than a gigawatt of utility-scale solar power plants worldwide. The company has proven its expertise and capabilities in Saudi Arabia, having built the country’s largest solar power plant at Saudi Aramco’s headquarters.
CPV technology is designed for high performance in sunny regions such as Saudi Arabia, delivering practically constant power output during the day at high ambient temperatures. It is the most efficient technology in the photovoltaic industry, achieving current energy-generating efficiencies of 30 percent – approximately twice that of conventional photovoltaic technologies. Soitec’s proven technology advantages are based on a strong company history of manufacturing innovative products of the highest quality. The technology is based on decades of research by the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg, Germany, more than six years of industrial implementation, installations in 18 countries worldwide and a current pipeline of hundreds of megawatts. Soitec’s robust CPV modules incorporate a durable glass-glass design and Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight 500 times onto small, highly efficient multi-junction solar cells. Additionally, the company’s systems use dual-axis tracking and achieve passive cooling without water consumption, offering competitive advantages in dry and clear-sky locations including the Middle East.
At the beginning of this year, Soitec installed a CPV demonstration system on the Medina College of Technology’s (MCT) campus in Medina, Saudi Arabia. The installation has served as a platform for applied research and training projects concerning solar energy in the Middle East as well as CPV performance in sunny, hot and arid conditions. With this demonstration system and others in six other countries throughout the MENA region, Soitec has been able to showcase specific design advantages for Saudi Arabia’s climate including modules that do not suffer measurable degradation over time; glass and UV-stable silicone lenses that are resistant to aging, even in extreme conditions; solar cells with useful lifetimes of 30+ years (space-proven); tracker tables with the height and stowing position to withstand sand storms; and systems with high ground clearance to reduce exposure to sand.
Saudi Arabia’s government estimates that demand for electricity in Saudi Arabia should exceed 120 GW in 20 years. To meet this growing need, the Kingdom intends to introduce a significant amount of alternative sources into its energy mix. According to K.A. CARE, the institution established by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to implement the national renewable-energy policy, solar energy will account for 41 GW of the country’s installed capacity by 2032.