Cradle of World Oil Supply, Middle East Embracing Solar Energy

PV solar array

The solar photovoltaic revolution has its deepest roots in Europe, the United States, Australia, and Japan. These are the places where many of the key technological advances in the PV industry have occurred, and they are also the places where solar power adoption initially took off. But the world of solar is changing fast, and the world of energy as a whole is changing fast.

The huge growth of production capacity in China and Taiwan helped to rapidly bring down solar panel costs and enabled a record-smashing boom in solar power adoption. Aside from the initially large solar markets noted above, China, India, Chile, Brazil, and other countries have become big markets. Furthermore, solar power has become much cheaper than diesel generators or kerosene lamps for people across the developing world who are living off the grid. Indeed, as people in the developing world leapfrogged landline telephones and jumped straight to mobile phones, they are leapfrogging large, expensive, centralized electricity systems and benefiting from independent solar power technology.

Perhaps most interestingly, the most dominant oil and gas region of the world seems to be jumping into the solar revolution now as well. Middle Eastern countries have seen tremendous economic benefit and improvements to quality of life thanks to their oil and gas resources and huge worldwide demand for that oil and gas. However, there is no point in fighting or ignoring the future, and they have for the most part realized that the future of energy is solar energy. Also, they are now seeing that solar power has become a cheaper electricity option for their citizens than burning oil or gas, and that they can benefit more from selling their fossil resources than burning them at home.

In late 2014, Dubai pulled in the lowest solar power bids in the history of the world. ACWA Power has agreed to deliver electricity under a long-term contract to the city for 5.84 cents per kWh. That's a few cents less per kWh than the typical price of electricity from natural gas in the region (9 cents per kWh). And this is just the beginning. Even lower bids have now come in over in Texas (interesting that it's another region known for its oil and gas), but how long until the record is back in the Middle East? Low cost of capital, high solar resources, and fast-growing electricity demand show a lot of promise in the region.

There's also the challenge of global warming that's driving the solar energy revolution. Living in the hot and harsh climate of the Middle East, several leaders have not shied away from discussing this matter and the need for renewable energy.

Overall, I think the leaders of the Middle East by and large see that the fossil fuel era won't run till the end of the century, not even close. They see the transition to clean energy occurring, and they are even joining it.

Tesla Motors CTO JB Straubel often ends his presentations with this quote/slide:

"The stone age came to an end not for lack of stones. And the oil age will come to an end not for lack of oil

Indeed. And perhaps that is why OPEC is not pulling back on its oil production despite the tremendous growth in production from other corners of the world in recent years.

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About the Author: Zachary Shahan is the editor of Sustainnovate.ae, CleanTechnica.com, SolarLove.org, and several other websites. You can make friends with him on just about any social network you like.

Image credits: Tesla Motors; Wikimedia

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