Saudi Arabia looks beyond oil to exploit its sunshine


Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, is keen to start harvesting electricity from another resource it has in abundance: sunshine.

A robust patent portfolio attracted Riyadh Valley Company, the investment arm of Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University, to the solar start-up Solexel, which makes wafer-thin silicon photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert solar energy into electrical power.

Compared with conventional modules, those of Solexel are cheaper and lighter, can better withstand heat and operate well in dusty conditions, says Abdelhakim Hammach, managing director at Riyadh Valley. In theory, this is the very technology Saudi Arabia has been waiting for to jump-start its solar sector.

“We need to enable as much technology transfer and know-how into the kingdom as possible,” says Mr Hammach, whose company was created to deploy funds into alternative energy investments.

The move is a small step in the right direction, but there is a long road ahead for a global oil powerhouse which is so heavily dependent on its most precious resource for its domestic energy needs. (by Anjli Raval, Oil and Gas Correspondent, Financial Times)