Barriers to Solar in the Middle East
Solar energy is the predominant source of alternative energy that the Middle East could try and exploit. Other sources such as wind, hydroelectric, thermal, and tidal energy cannot be supported or justified given the obvious constraints and limitations to make them work.
When one thinks of the Middle East, ‘Solar’ is the term that usually comes to mind. The strong solar radiation makes the Middle East an attractive prospect for solar energy. However, certain barriers exist which prevent solar power from taking off in the region.
Although the Middle East receives twice the sunlight per square meter compared with Europe, the desert environment makes it difficult to implement solar technology in this part of the world.
While data taken via satellite shows high radiation levels with a variation of around 3%, the reality on the ground is very different. Reports suggest the radiations levels are actually 15% lower. This is a significant deviation which further creates impediments towards the development and application of solar power.
Another factor is that the sand particles in the air combined with humidity encrust the solar panels, which blocks the sunlight. This is a problem peculiar to the Middle East and the clearest solution is constant cleaning through automated or manual procedures.
While governments in Spain, US, Italy, India, Japan and China, amongst many others offer incentives to install the solar technology, leaders in the Middle East have not yet engineered a policy that would encourage the use of renewable energy.
One of the primary reasons being the Middle East continues to have vast sources of oil and hence are under no pressure or obligation to devise a policy to encourage the usage of other sources.
If the government is to foster the use of solar technology, it can only work if the consumers in the Middle East are offered incentives such as feed-in tariffs to install solar panels, and the price of electricity is increased.
High Price is another barricade in the smooth implementation of this technology. Even though experts point out the costs can be recovered in 5 years time and the benefits thereafter are for a lifetime there is no excitement in the market to install the same due to the high investment required.
If one looks at it from a common man’s point of view one would normally think should I install solar panels and bear the extra costs at this stage when electricity through fossil fuel is so cheap.
You see we humans are selfish by nature. Unless there is a gain to be obtained in the form of incentives or FITs there is no motivation for me or you to walk the extra mile. If everyone continues their habit why should I bear the extra cost to change.
Article by Yunus Boxwala, an aspiring entrepreneur in the renewable energy industry currently based in the UAE. He is looking to partner with players interested in seeking entry into the Middle East and
conducting research on the same.
photo: zbig photography.
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