Clean Power and Renewable Energy Growth in MENA Region
Sustainability is now firmly on the agenda in the Middle East; with the development of Masdar at the hub of a low carbon future, we are continually seeing a shift away from fossil fuels towards a variety of clean energy and power solutions. Some of the most surprising movements are happening in oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Here, I offer a look at the rise in alternative energy projects in the Middle East and the large numbers of renewable energy job opportunities being created.
Currently, the MENA region meets 98 percent of its energy requirements through oil and gas, having benefited from abundant hydrocarbon resources and low costs in the region. However, rising oil prices combined with a greater understanding by the Middle East of the impacts of global warming and growing energy demands, brought about by huge infrastructure development, have resulted in depleting reserves and a clear need to diversify. Fortunately, the geography and climate conditions of the MENA region are highly conducive to the development of renewable energy sources, most notably solar and wind.
The vast desert is ideal for solar energy, while the Mediterranean and North African coastlines are highly suitable for wind energy production. Allen & York are in fact, currently partnering a prestigious international corporation to source a VP for their Alternative Energy operation which will oversee all renewable energy projects within the Middle East. This is an exciting opportunity, as the region is beginning to exploit its natural resources: the sun, sea and land mass.
With average daily sunlight exceeding 8.8 hours in the Middle East, limited rainfall and abundant land space, there are optimum physical resources for the construction of large scale solar power plants.
Recent solar energy projects include Desertec, designed to enable the use of solar energy and wind, in deserts worldwide. Morocco, the only North African nation without oil resources, is a promising site for solar power because of its abundant sunshine combined with its government’s eagerness to embrace solar energy. In 2009 Morocco unveiled a US$9bn plan to build five solar plants that would produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power Morocco’s largest city, Casablanca. Furthermore (according to the Moroccan government) these solar farms could produce more than a third of the nation’s capacity by 2020.
This project was the first step in the Desertec plan and is now well on the way to ensuring they have the best team of solar professionals on board to ensure the farm is completed by 2015, when it is expected that the site could feed 340mw each day to Spain. Furthermore, the combination of all the planned Desertec projects could generate up to 15 percent of Europe’s electricity by 2050. With the increase of such solar projects in the MENA region, we are seeing an increased demand for renewable energy professionals to support the development of solar farms and solar thermal power plant.
Onshore & Offshore Wind Power
Wind Energy within the MENA region grew 38 percent in 2009 according to The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and there are encouraging signs for wind power development in the MENA region in the coming years. Masdar intends to build a 20-30MW wind farm on Sir Bani Yas Island off the western coast of Abu Dhabi. In North Africa, the expansion of wind power continues in Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia; Egypt not only saw the largest addition of new capacity in 2010 (120 MW), bringing the total up to 550 MW, but also continues to lead the region with the government setting ambitious targets of 20 percent of total electricity produced from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Combined Cycle Power
Another primary clean energy source for the MENA region is Combined Cycle Power (CCP); in fact the world’s first integrated renewable energy combined cycle power plant (CCPP) is being built in Turkey, by General Electric and eSolar. The design of the power plant integrates a traditional combined cycle plant with wind and solar energy, allowing it to generate electricity with much greater efficiency. The Karaman plant, due to start running in 2015, will have a capacity of approximately 530 megawatts which is enough to power over 600,000 Turkish homes.
The CCP Plant in Turkey will convert 69 percent of all the natural gas it consumes into electricity compared with most natural gas plants that convert no more than 50 percent. Following in Turkey’s footsteps is Saudi Arabia, which has announced plans to construct the world’s largest CCPP, which will provide enough energy to meet approximately one tenth of the country’s current power demand.
Renewable Energy Career Opportunities
As we can see the region’s fast-growing power demand is being increasingly met with the aid of advanced technologies within the renewable energy portfolio; Solar, Wind and CCPP power plants are enabling the Middle East to realize a more sustainable energy production model for the future.
Victoria Kenrick is a specialist with Allen & York, a leading international sustainability recruitment consultancy, specializing across the environmental, renewable energy, engineering, energy services and health & safety markets. Allen & York is pleased to support the growth of the clean energy infrastructure within MENA, sourcing skilled civil engineers, CCPP construction managers, project managers, renewable energy project managers and CEOs, to manage Renewable & CCPP projects for world leading energy companies. Allen & York has 18 years experience recruiting within the Energy sector. For recruitment solutions or job opportunities within the renewable energy and sustainability industry, please visit www.allen-york.com.
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