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Saudi Arabian Wind Power Plants: Status and Future Report


Introduction

In the globalized society, the issue of climate change prompts stakeholders to take part in the establishment and implementation of strategies that enhance the sustainability of the environment. Essentially, strategies geared towards fostering environmental sustainability have a positive influence on socio-economic growth and development. Currently, industrial activities contribute to the emission of hazardous greenhouse gasses, including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In this concern, international conventions usually agitate for the embracement of practices that reduce the depletion of the ozone layer besides other forms of environmental degradation. An international summit held in October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, saw almost 200 members of the Montreal Protocol agree to cut the emission of HFCs significantly to reach the lowest levels ever to be achieved.

In this light, several countries, including Saudi Arabia, have invested in engineering projects aimed at tapping the alternative sources of energy to reduce environmental depletion. Notably, the development of wind power plants in strategic places such as offshores is regarded as a strategic move towards enhancing energy production, as well as curbing further degradation of the ecosystem. Therefore, this paper provides an overview of the status regarding wind power plants before looking at the importance of such projects in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the paper will cover the background of wind power plants by addressing the technical aspects, similar projects in different parts of the globe, and the significant statistical figures for the case of Saudi Arabia.

Overview of the wind power status: possible deficiencies and limitations

The need for creating a society that upholds the essence of combating detrimental climate change calls for the establishment of projects that capture and distribute renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind (Shaahid 169). Further, the overdependence on fossil fuels besides oil reserves is worrying since it undermines environmental and economic sustainability to a considerable degree. Besides, for the sake of improving energy security, the establishment of wind power plants is considered a strategic move in the contemporary world (“Energy Information Administration- Official Site” par.2).

Axiomatically, wind power plants produce more power that they consume compared to other ways of producing energy. Notably, wind farms can generate between 17 and 39 times of the power consumed in the production process in comparison with 11 times for coal plants and 16 times for nuclear energy plants (Baseer 39). Therefore, the generation efficiency associated with wind power plants denotes the suitability of the energy alternative. In this regard, between 2007 and 2015, countries in the different regions have shown an increase in the establishment of wind power plants to promote the generation of renewable sources of energy to combat climate change. The figure below shows the trend of the power plants installation capacity in various regions.

 Regional Installation of Wind Power Plants and Capacity.
Figure 1. Regional Installation of Wind Power Plants and Capacity. Source: (Ramli et al. 296).

The upward trend shows that more countries consider the integration of wind power plants to enhance the efficiency of their energy generation strategies by supporting the essence of sustainable development. For this reason, in 2015, wind-power plants led the advanced power technologies globally. However, economies in the Middle East and Africa require a greater installation of wind energy plants, owing to the advantages of such energy technologies.

The wind, as a power source, is advantageous in an array of ways. The cleanliness of the source implies that it does not contribute to the pollution of the air as compared to the toxic emissions generated when combusting fossil fuels (Ramli et al. 296). The turbines do not contribute to the emission of greenhouse gasses besides triggering acid rain. Further, wind power plants generate energy from a readily available source. Thus, its abundance enhances the capacity of different countries to meet their energy needs. Additionally, the sustainability of the wind as a source of power has seen the significant installation of turbines in the Asian region, led by China (Ramli et al. 290). Moreover, the cost-effective aspect of wind power estimated between two and six cents per kilowatt-hour has encouraged countries such as the Saudi Arabia to consider establishing their first power plant.

Amid the advantages, wind power plants pose several challenges. Notably, wind power projects are usually capital intensive. Thus, they require significant investments. The location of the facility also matters since areas with less energetic winds can increase the cost of generating energy. Further, the usage of land or offshores for wind power plants competes with other land uses that can generate greater benefits. Despite its insignificant contribution to environmental degradation, wind energy generation causes noise and aesthetic pollution. The turbines usually create noise besides altering the natural appearance of landscapes.

Moreover, the renewable energy plants have raised concerns in different countries over the threat to the conservation of the wildlife. Prominent cases have shown the damage of birds caught in the area of the spinning turbines. Therefore, countries that seek to install wind power plants need to consider the possible ways of mitigating the deficiencies or limitations of such projects for the sake of maximizing the benefits.

The importance of wind power plants in Saudi Arabia and the expected improvement

The integration of wind power plants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a decisive move towards combating climate change in the Middle Eastern region, as well as promoting energy efficiency and security. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 targets to foster productivity and effectiveness in different fields of the economy, including the energy sector. In particular, the country’s Vision 2030 seeks to realize a generation of at least 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy (Ramli et al. 379). Therefore, the installation of wind turbines to generate energy would be crucial towards the realization of the country’s envisioned targets.

Saudi Arabia seeks to install its first-ever wind turbine at the Turaif Bulk Plant that is situated in the northwestern region of the Gulf Kingdom. The contractors of the project include Saudi Aramco and General Electric (GE) partnering to facilitate the pioneering of wind power plants in the Middle East region (Ramli et al. 378). The partners aim at the installation of the highest quality wind turbines in the region to meet the heightening energy needs of the kingdom in a way that promotes the embracement of renewable energy generation as an alternative to its fossil fuels that cause environmental pollution.

Furthermore, the northern regions of Saudi Arabia provide suitable sites for the installation of wind turbines to bolster the reduction of the costs incurred in the energy sector. Notably, the central and northeast regions of Saudi Arabia experience winds exceeding 8.0 m/s, thereby offering strategic locations for wind power plants (Baseer 40). Therefore, the establishment of the projects in the identified areas would put the arid land to profitable use, thereby bolstering the diversification and efficiency of the kingdom’s economy.

Evidently, Saudi Arabians expect the integration of wind power plants in the Kingdom to enhance energy security, combat the degradation of the environment, and/or trigger economic development. A similar project launched in Jordan seeks to get rid of the country’s energy woes since the Tafila Wind Farm has the capacity to generate 400 GWh of electricity yearly (Ramli et al. 376). Thus, the case of Saudi Arabia would also be relevant in promoting energy efficiency.

The renewable energy project is also crucial since it undermines the over-reliance on hydrocarbons for energy production. As such, Saudi Arabians anticipate the project as a key move towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Since the reduction of poisonous gas emissions such as HFCs is a global objective, the participation of Saudi Arabia towards the attainment of such targets is considerable.

Technical illustration of the proposed technology

A simple engineering principle facilitates the functionality of wind turbines. Normally, wind energy propels two or three blades affixed to a rotor. A shaft connected to the rotor spins a generator, thereby resulting in the creation of electricity. The simple engineering principle reverses the way a fan functions. In this respect, instead of using electricity to turn the blades in the turbine, the blades turn to create electricity (Shaahid 170). Therefore, the energy in the wind triggers the spinning of the blades that rotate a shaft linked to a generator that produces electricity.

The main types of wind turbines include the vertical axis and horizontal axis. The installation of the turbines can take place at the offshore of large water bodies such as lakes or oceans. Primarily, installed wind turbines facilitate the conversion of kinetic energy to mechanical power. Wind power plants offer the mechanical force to the electrical components for supply to consumers (Ramli et al. 293). The mechanical power or electricity may be deployed for various purposes, including domestic and industrial use. A network of power cables that link different homes, premises, and industries facilitates the channeling of the generated power to the grid.

Important to note, the wind is one of the forms of solar energy that develops as an outcome of the sun’s uneven heating of the atmosphere. The rotation of the earth and the irregular nature of the earth’s surface also influence the generation of wind. The setting up of wind turbines needs to consider areas with high wind speed, at least 8 meters per second (Shaahid et al. 8044). Usually, the factors that undermine the speed of wind include vegetation, terrain differences, and water bodies.

International overview of the industry and similar practices worldwide with possible achievement

By the end of 2015, the various wind power plants situated in different countries realized a cumulative generation of electricity summing up to 432,883 MW (“The International Renewable Energy Agency” par.1). The figure represents a 175 increase when compared to the 2014 records. Between 2013 and 2015, the generation of electricity from wind increased by a substantial 100%, as denoted by the witnessed 35,467 MW increase in 2013 since 2015 saw an additional of 63,330 MW (Ramli et al. 380). Globally, China and the US lead the pack among the countries that have engaged in the significant installation of wind power plants (“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” par.3). In 2015, China’s installation capacity generated 145,362 MW, which accounted for a significant 34.1% of the global installation ability. The US follows with an installation aptitude of 74,471 MW, thereby accounting for 17.5% of the global total production.

Since 2010, new installations of wind power plants occurred outside North America and Europe as denoted by the boom of nearly half of the world’s new installations in China and India. However, Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan lag behind in the creation of wind power plants. Amid the slow progress, the region shows positive signs of fully embracing renewable energy sources, in particular, the wind. As such, the region managed to add 317MW of wind power in 2015 (Shaahid et al. 8042).

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait continue showing optimism in the generation of wind power. The Turaif Bulk Plant in the northern region of Saudi Arabia is a promising move geared towards energy efficiency. Similarly, the Shagaya and Gamesa turbines in Kuwait aim at generating at least 100 MW of power. This capacity will improve the production of renewable energy in the region (Ramli et al. 290). The African region has also shown interest in tapping wind power where countries such as Kenya, Namibia, and Ethiopia continue installing wind turbines.

Statistics about Saudi Arabia concerning wind power technology

Saudi Arabia holds an important energy policy that focuses on the mitigation of waste besides bolstering the efficiency of the efforts put in place to streamline the Kingdom’s energy sector. In this regard, the country plans to generate at least 50GW of electricity from solar and wind power by 2040 (Shaahid 169). Currently, the Kingdom has allocated over $2 trillion to fund wind power projects that would generate at least 9.5GW of the wind and solar energy before the deadline of its 2030 national vision (Baseer 37).

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 seeks to streamline the efficiency of the energy sector in a way that fosters the diversity and sustainability of the economy. In this regard, the establishment of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative is geared towards the modification of the available regulatory and legal frameworks to promote private-public partnerships (Ramli et al. 289).

In 2014, the Gulf Kingdom allocated more than $3 trillion to the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative to bolster the competitiveness of renewable energy. The cost competitive nature of wind energy makes it a suitable choice for the Saudi Arabian government. Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon view wind power plants as the alternative to hydrocarbons since the production of the former averages at $c5/kWh (Ramli et al. 382). Therefore, Saudi Arabia would reap considerable economic benefits, owing to the competitiveness of the costs incurred in the production of wind power.

Conclusion

The development of wind power plants in Saudi Arabia would play a considerable role in fighting against climate change, fostering energy sufficiency, and facilitating the diversification and sustainability of the Kingdom’s economy. Other countries led by China and the US have shown commendable progress in the new installation capacity, thereby accounting for almost half of the world’s generation capacity through wind energy. However, the Gulf kingdom still lags behind in the installation of wind power plants in the country. Thus, for the attainment of the energy targets spelled out in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the intensification of wind power projects is relevant.

Works Cited

Baseer, Mildred. “Wind Power Characteristics of Seven Data Collection Sites in Jubail, Saudi Arabia using Weibull Parameters.” Renewable Energy, vol. 102, no. 1, 2017, pp. 35-49.

EIA, 2015, Web.

Ramli, Makbul, et al. “Techno-economic Energy Analysis of Wind/Solar Hybrid System: Case Study for Western Coastal Area of Saudi Arabia.” Renewable Energy, vol. 91, no. 1, 2016, pp. 374-385.

Shaahid, Swaleh, et al. “Feasibility of Development of Wind Farms in Northern Province of Saudi Arabia.” International Journal of Applied Engineering Research, vol. 11, no. 13, 2016, pp. 8041-8045.

Shaahid, Syed. “Economic Perspective of Hybrid Wind-Diesel Technology for Commercial Loads of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.” Thermal Science, vol. 19, no. 1, 2015, pp. 167-178.

“The International Renewable Energy Agency.” IRENA, 2014, Web.

EPA, 2014, Web.

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