Amid all of the knuckledragging going on in the debate over clean energy in the United States, it's easy to lose sight of the progress that is being made in other countries on renewable energy. Saudi Arabia, a true fossil-fuel powerhouse, announced over a year ago that they plan to move forward with what can only be called an aggressive strategy for harnessing solar power. According to an article in Arabian Business last year:
The kingdom aims to generate as much energy from solar cells as it pumps out of the ground to export in the form of crude, Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said in a speech in Krakow, Poland, in June 2011. He said the nation has the potential to produce enough solar power to meet four times current world electricity demand. (Arabian Business, June 3, 2011)
The Saudi plans are not philanthropic, but based on their economic analysis that by taking advantage of one abundant energy resource (the sun), they will have more of their other more famous resource (oil, duh!) available for export.
Now, it seems that the Saudi's are planning to make good on their plans. The City of Mecca is planning to develop a major electricity generating plant that will include 100 Megawatts of solar energy:
Mecca, which hosts millions of pilgrims a year visiting Islam’s most holy shrine, is working toward becoming the first city in Saudi Arabia to operate a utility-scale plant generating electricity from renewables.
The city on Jan. 5 plans to select from a group of at least 20 bidders competing to build and operate facilities producing 385 gigawatt-hours per year of power including 100 megawatts of solar capacity, said Mayor Osama al-Bar. (Businessweek, September 23, 2012)
More on Mecca's plans can be found here on Renewable Energy World.
For those keeping track, we here in Ohio have 50.2 Megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity as of August 2012 (SRECtrade.com). That means that one city in Saudi Arabia may soon have more than double the current capacity of solar than currently exists in the state that recently captured the title of solar PV manufacturing capital of the US.