Saudi Arabia is known for its opulent, luxurious and excessive architectural aesthetic.
The country wowed the international design world with its rule-breaking design excess up until the industry freeze which began around the time of the 2009 global financial crisis (GFC). The GFC hit the entire area hard, with some of the most extensive and world-first developments, especially those in the United Arab Emirates, stalled until money to continue could be garnered. Others still were completely abandoned.
However, unwilling to suffer further industry challenges like its UAE counterparts, the Saudi industry has gone in a direction that has been slow to catch on in the middle east – toward green building.
In fact, as the proverbial dark horse, the Saudi industry has proven it is now designing for resource and cost efficiency with the announcement that they have completed the world’s largest solar thermal plant, located in the country’s capital of Riyadh.
The $14 million renewable energy development includes a 36,000 square metre rooftop solar energy system that will cater to the hot water needs of the 40,000 students at the city’s Princess Noura Bint Abdulrahman University for Women. The 10 square metre solar panels have been provided by Austrian firm GREENTecOne.
“This plant has gigantic proportions – the 36,000 square metres of surface is equivalent to about the size of 5 football pitches full of collectors,” says Robert Kanduth, founder and managing director of GREENoneTEC.
Functionally, the solar panels are placed in prime locations to receive the full intensity of the roasting desert sun. This effect is enhanced through the implementation of increased solar performance-inducing glass. A modified mounting system has also been put into place in order to stand against the high winds that are a reality during sand storms in the area.
The environmental benefits of such a venture are self-evident. In terms of its investment potential, the solar thermal plant is also expected to be incredibly economically lucrative for the city. Not only will the reliance taken off the country’s rich oil supply mean electricity cost cutting, but it also offers to maximise oil export ventures from the area. In the long term, the city is also making strong steps towards safeguarding itself against oil depletion and leading the way for green innovation in the area.