(MENAFN - Arab News) A number of high-profile international, regional and local experts discussed ways and means of harnessing and developing renewables and alternative energies.
They were speaking at the First Saudi Arabian Renewable Energy Conference and Exhibition organized by the Center of Research Excellence in Renewable Energy at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM).
KFUPM Rector Khaled S. Al-Sultan inaugurated the all-important conference and thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for his support to the conference.
"King Abdullah's patronage reflects his interest in the renewable energy which is a strategic issue for the present and future generations," said Al-Sultan. "The establishment of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy stems from Saudi Arabia's interest in expanding this area."
Among the prominent keynote speakers who took part in the two-day deliberations were Prince Turki bin Saud, vice president for research institutes at King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology; Abdullah M. Al-Shehri, governor of Electricity and Co-generation Regulatory Authority; Habib I. Abualhamayel, director of KFUPM's Center of Research Excellence in Renewable Energy; Manuel Blanco of Spain's National Center for Renewable Energy; Harry Wirth from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems; Mowafak Al-Jassim from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the United States; Peter Lund from Finland's Aalto University; Ladislaus Rybach of International Association of Geothermal Energy in Switzerland; Ahmed Ghoniem of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Gento Mogi of the World Solar Energy Center in Japan; Hans Muller of the European Committee for the Advancement of Thermal Sciences and Heat Transfer and Randall Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association. KFUPM's Vice Rector for Graduate Studies Sahel N. Abduljauwad said the speakers discussed a host of issues concerning the world of renewables.
"Renewable energy means clean and non-depletable energy such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy ... They do not have negative effects on the environment," he said.
"There is a global interest in renewable energy and the Kingdom is keen to keep up with this interest," he said. "Solar energy in particular is of very high interest to us because the Kingdom is blessed with intensive solar radiation on its territory."
Speaking on Saudi Arabia's energy challenges and opportunities, Faisal A. Habiballah of Saudi Aramco said his company saw good potential for the use of wind and geothermal energy in the Western Region. "There is technical potential to produce 25,000 megawatts of electricity from wind," he said.
It is a well-known fact that Saudi Arabia's domestic demand for energy is increasing with the increasing population, and the growing demand for hydrocarbon-fed generation systems will eventually adversely impact the nation's oil exports.
Experts say there is a twofold benefit for the Kingdom to go in for renewables.
First, sunlight is readily available across the country, with areas such as the Rub Al-Khali ideal for solar power generation both in days of clear skies and unused area for photovoltaic panels or large arrays of mirrors that concentrate sunlight on a shaft that heats up to generate steam, which in turn is used to power turbines for the generation of electricity. Turbines turning water into steam also are used for desalination plants to provide potable water.
The second and most important benefit, say experts, is preserving the country's valuable hydrocarbon energy stream for refining into transportation fuels or petrochemical feedstock, both of which can be exported to contribute to the Kingdom's revenue stream.