The oil-rich Persian Gulf states are mulling expanding into alternative energy. According to a UPI report, Abu Dhabi will soon finish construction on the world's largest single-unit solar power plant; while Saudi Arabia is exploring solar energy exports.
The Persian Gulf sit on around one-fifth of the Earth's oil reserves, but the emirates are not oblivious to the growing interest – and need – for alternative, eco-friendly energy.
And so, the Arab monarchies are embarking on a green revolution that aims to transform their own economies by freeing oil for export rather than domestic consumption to fuel power stations.
Leading the solar efforts in the Gulf Abu Dhabi, which is developing the Shams 1 solar project. The future field will have an electricity generation capacity of 100 megawatts.
The project's solar panels cover the equivalent of 300 football fields in a remote patch of desert in the emirate.
"This could be the world's next renewable energy center," said Mark Robson of the Oliver Wyman energy consultancy in Dubai, the Emirates' financial hub, during the recent UN global climate change conference in Qatar.
The field is being built by solar power giant Masdar. Once complete, it is designed to provide 20,000 homes with electricity. Follow-on projects Shams 2 and 3 are expected to produce similar amounts of electricity, UPI said.
"Once completed, Shams 1 will be one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the world," and the largest of its kind in the Middle East, said Yousef Al Ali, general manager of the Shams Power Co.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia aims to form a chain of solar power stations over the next few years as part of a $100 billion program to develop renewable energy platforms.
The move "Follows years of growth in Saudi Arabia and others in the gulf that mean countries are now burning so much of their own oil and gas resources that they could become net fuel importers within 20 years unless they find new sources of energy," the Financial Times reported.
Solar energy advocates see the Gulf Cooperation Council states, namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, provide electricity to Egypt and the region, and maybe even Europe – which is eager to cut its dependence on Russian gas supplies.