Oil-Rich Middle East is Investing in Solar

While North Americans are still fighting over the Keystone XL and investing in detrimental and unsustainable fracking and tar sands development, the oil rich countries in the Middle East and North Africa are turning their attention to renewables.  These states export oil and natural gas around the world, and are therefore trying to lessen their dependency on these fossil fuels and produce power sold at subsidized rates.

Shams 1

Shams 1, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, the largest sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates and the country that holds almost all the oil reserves, started the largest concentrated solar project last week: the Shams 1 project. The $750 million dollar project will produce 100 megawatts of power through concentrated solar; a process that harnesses the sun’s energy to heat liquids and produce steam to turn turbines, rather than through photovoltaic cells.  They have another 100 megawatt photovoltaic plant, Noor 1, and a 30- megawatt wind farm on Sir Bani Yas island in the works as well.

Saudi Arabia is also investing in renewables, seeking about $100 billion in solar investments to produce a third of its power by 2032.  As the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, this is a very significant investment.


While the reason for this investment may be economic and not environmental (using less oil means more oil available to export to energy-poor countries), these moves are encouraging in regions where fossil fuel energy is so easy to come by.  It should also be a valuable lesson for North Americans: if we truly want to lessen our dependency on foreign oil, the answer is not to deepen our dependency on damaging and unsustainable fracking and tar sands development.  Undeniably, the answer is to seriously commit and invest in local renewable energy sources.


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5 Comments on “Oil-Rich Middle East is Investing in Solar”

  1. jpgreenword March 21, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    What better place to put solar energy than in deserts – or just the middle east in general. The great thing about the concentrated solar is that it can be modified to store energy as well. The heated liquid can be stored and used at a later time (when the sun is down).

    • utopiandreaming March 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Exactly, it’s fantastic! If even the Middle East is trying to move away from fossil fuels, we should really get our act together.

      • jpgreenword March 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

        A solar panel on every roof (that faces the right direction) and turbines in every community. Plus burning farm waste in rural areas. It can be done!!!

      • utopiandreaming March 21, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

        It can! We have the technology, just need the political will to make it happen. Which begins with greater public awareness and engagement in politics.

      • jpgreenword March 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

        Hence our blogs 🙂

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