Solar energy 'a necessity'

Posted: 14 February 2001

Solar Energy is an essential component of future energy generation - and could provide 35-40 per cent of the world's energy by 2050 - according to Peter Clements, Project Manager for BP Solar.

Speaking, at the Environment 2001 Conference and Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, in February 2001, he stressed the huge potential for solar energy in the Gulf region, especially in remote locations.

"The beauty of solar is that no maintenance is required and there is zero pollution. Here it's only necessary to visit the panels in the desert once a year to brush off the sand!" he said.

"If an oil-rich state, like the UAE is looking to solar, this provides a clear message to the rest of the world that oil and gas resources will not last forever and alternatives must be considered."

He added that the main drawback to solar energy is currently the price, despite a consistent decline over the last 20 years. In 1980, a watt of electricity cost US$80 to produce through solar technology, but by the year 2000, this had fallen to just seven dollars. Solar advocates are hoping that consumers will be willing to pay a "green premium" with zero additional costs, oncethe solar panels have been installed. This, however, requires government help.

While solar energy is especially applicable in areas of the world with plenty of sunshine, Clements said it was important to understand that solar energy can be created by daylight in all areas of the world.

In particular there was considerable scope for solar panels replacing conventional glass as the siding for modern buildings, as in the Sydney Olympic village.

BP currently operates four solar manufacturing plants in Australia, India, Saudi Arabia and Spain. It plans to expand its wholly owned BP Solar subsidiary into a US$1 billion business by 2007 from $200 million today.