Solar Powers Saudi Oil Research Center

Solar power will provide clean energy for Saudi Arabia’s largest oil research facility following the successful installation of a 3.5 megawatt photovoltaic field using Suntech solar panels, the largest solar power plant ever built in the country.

Phoenix Solar AG spent 20 months constructing the plant on the desert grounds of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre (KAPSARC), in Riyadh.

The company installed over 12,000 Suntech crystalline solar modules on the 55,000 square metre solar field, which are expected to provide an energy yield of 5,800 megawatt-hours annually and contribute to KAPSARC’s goal of achieving the US Green Building Council’s LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

KAPSARC is an independently funded think tank and energy research centre founded by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and has hosted several international conferences on solar power supply chains and economics. The new Phoenix/Suntech solar field will help the centre meet its 20 percent solar energy requirement.

Building a large-scale solar plant in the Arabian desert meant modifying the traditional design of a ground-mounted array to accommodate high temperatures and the threat of sandstorms.

Working in conjunction with plant owners, Saudi Aramco, Phoenix engineers placed the array’s SMA solar inverters inside an air-conditioned building to protect them from the elements and prolong the life of the system.

“As a result of the solutions developed here, the KAPSARC photovoltaic power plant which was built according to Saudi Aramco Engineering Standards is currently not only the largest ground-mounted photovoltaic power plant in Saudi Arabia but also of premium quality and customer optimised”, said Klaus Friedl, Vice President Projects and responsible at Phoenix Solar for the Middle East.

According to Phoenix CEO, Andreas Hänel, the successful completion of the KAPSARC project paves the way for further solar projects in Saudi Arabia.
“Only a short while ago it was announced that Saudi Arabia plans to install 41 gigawatts of solar power over the next 20 years. With this top-quality flagship project, we have gained a good footing in the region”.

In other recent Suntech-related news, the company has announced plans to establish a solar panel factory in Uzbekistan.