What types of solar technology are available?

KAPSARC PV Solar Plant

Photovoltaic (PV)
Photovoltaic technology captures the energy of the sun, converting light directly into electricity. Energy is collected using cells that produce electricity when exposed to radiant energy, especially light, made of semiconductor materials such as silicon. Photovoltaic cells convert this energy into direct source electricity (DC power). This in turn is used directly at the source or converted to alternating current (AC power) using an inverter and stored for later use in a battery device such as a municipal grid.

This video shows how a PV panel converts the energy of the sun into renewable electricity:

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)
Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors to focus a large area of sunlight onto a small area. The concentrated light is then directed onto photovoltaic surfaces or used to heat a transfer fluid for a conventional power plant to produce electricity.

Solar Thermal plant at Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University

Solar Thermal
Solar thermal technology harnesses the energy of the sun with solar energy collectors (typically flat plates), which in turn provide low- to medium-temperature heat energy for direct use. The most common application for this technology is heating of hot water systems, space heating, and swimming pools; as well as cooling systems for residential and commercial buildings.

Concentration photovoltaic (CPV) 
These systems use a Fresnel lens to focus and magnify sunlight onto solar cells that are anywhere from 250 to 500 times smaller than typical “one-sun” PV solar panels. Concentration photovoltaic systems reduce costs by effectively replacing expensive silicon solar cells with inexpensive plastic (Fresnel) lenses.

Today’s concentration photovoltaic solar systems also “track” the sun to maintain maximum energy transfer to the solar cells. They are completely automated, using integrated tracking software control systems that are driven hydraulically. Concentration photovoltaic solar systems integrate the Fresnel lens, solar cell, and solar receiver plate into the system.

Passive Solar design at KAUST

Passive Solar
Architects and builders use special design practices to maximize sunlight in interior spaces and position shading devices to protect from excessive heat, cleverly maximizing solar energy where it is most effective.

Another example of passive solar technology is the use of special materials and designs to absorb the sun’s heat during the day and release it later, warming a building during cooler evenings and nights.

Emerging Technologies
As the potential for solar energy increases across the world, a significant amount of time and money is being invested in the research and development of emerging solar technologies. We expect to see a significant increase in the emergence or new solar technologies.

Does solar energy work at night?

Yes. Solar energy collected during daylight hours can be used immediately or transferred into a storage device such as a battery system or municipal grid. Thus, energy collected and stored during the day can be used to power commercial and residential applications at night.

How long does a solar system last?

The lifespan of a solar energy system differs with each type of technology. Today’s photovoltaic, CPV, CSP, and solar thermal systems generally work for about 25 years, but this timeline differs with each application. Check with individual suppliers for more detailed information.

How well does solar power work in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is blessed with an abundant solar resource throughout the year and an abnormally high number of sunny cloudless days, making solar technology a perfect fit for its sunny climate. Solar also has a proven track record in the KSA—some solar facilities have been in operation for a quarter century or more. In addition, the Kingdom has taken proactive steps to encourage and support the expansion of solar power generation. See the Solar in Saudi Arabia section of the Information Center for more details.

Where can I learn more about solar technology?

Visit the members section of our website to search our member directory. One of our suppliers will be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

How much does a solar system cost?

The cost of a solar system varies greatly depending on your requirements, power needs, system size and technology used. For a detailed quote please contact us.

Where can I get information about existing solar facilities in Saudi Arabia?

Start by visiting the Solar in Saudi Arabia section of our Information Center. Another great resource is Solar Middle East’s Solar Projects Locator, an interactive map featuring information about major solar projects worldwide. To isolate projects in the KSA, simply click the box labeled Saudi Arabia in Country section of the left-hand column.