Harnessing Renewable Energy in the Gulf Region
The rapidly declining oil reserves in addition the growing concerns of global warming as well as lack of power grid lines in remote villages in Saudi Arabia and in other countries, has made the application of renewable energy to be inevitable. The integration of wind and solar energy has been of late very lucrative and has found a wide range of usage in remote villages or in substituting oil produced energy and minimizing the environmental degradation resulting from the use of oil produced energy. According to statistics, domestic use in Saudi Arabia accounts to between 10 and 40% of the total electric energy produced on the grid (Rahman et al, 2007). The meteorological monitoring and solar radiation center in Dahran has been important in providing the ample useful data that has aided in the integration of the renewable energy in the grid system in Saudi Arabia.
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The null hypothesis is renewable energy is not enough to be integrated with the power grid system in the gulf countries. This is because many countries in the region have reluctantly embraced the use of renewable energy, heavily relying on the use of fossil fuels as a result of having the world's largest deposits. The alternative hypothesis is the gulf countries have the potential and ability to integrate renewable energy into their power grid system. The level of significance in the test will be 95% since there is enough evidence in past and current studies and researches that the region has potential of harnessing large amounts of renewable energy. The decision rule will involve rejecting the null hypothesis when the hypothetical values of 3.5m/s average wind speeds and 5.0Wh/m2 average solar radiation portray a large deviation from the statistical data collected through the research. This would imply that the wind and solar levels available in the gulf region are well below the threshold required for power production and hence not viable fro power generation.
Dhahran is located at 26032'N, 50013'E, and the average wind speeds in the area range from 4.1 to 6.4m/s. The average solar radiation value fro Dhahran an important data center has been recorded to range between 3.6kWh/m2 and 7.96kWh/m2 (Elhadidy, 2002). The center has therefore incorporated an integrated renewable energy system consisting of rated power wind farms, storage capacities, photovoltaic areas as well as diesel back ups to investigate and analyze the use of hybrid power system.
According to research carried out by Said, El amin and Al Shehri from King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia, it was observed that the world wide usage in wind energy currently ranges at about 14000MW with 80% of this energy being consumed by U.S, Germany, Denmark, Spain and India. The research in addition recorded wind data for seven stations in Saudi Arabia, mostly in the Eastern Province. According to Said, El amin and Al Shehri, the monthly wind average range between 2.4 and 6.1m/s, while the annual average speeds range from 3.2 to 5.3m/s. With 80% of the average population in Saudi Arabia living in urban and commercial areas, it has been considered uneconomical to extend the national grid lines to remote areas where the grid does not cover. This has made the hybrid system of electric generation to gain much support and funding in the country.
Said, El amin and Al Shehri further indicated that the maximum extractable monthly wind power ranged from 14.2 to 162.5Wm-2, while the maximum annual wind powers in the stations ranged from 31.7 to 94.6Wm-2. In addition, the average wind powers and speeds were found to range between 21.8 and 77.7Wm-2 and 2.5 to 4.4ms-1 annually respectively. The data therefore indicates that wind power might be economically used for small scale applications where the populations has been observed to be sparsely distributed and very low compared to the economic centers. According to Said, El amin and Al Shehri, the mean energy density ranges between 250 to 500kWh/m2 on the red sea coast and drops to 50kWh/m2 in inland regions. Makah has been recorded to have the lowest wind density due to the Sarawat Mountains.
Solar energy in the location has been explained to be very impressive, and since the regions fall in the desert, the solar distribution annually would be very consistent and reliable. The solar energy density has been recorded to be more than 2.0 MWh/m2 in Makah and Port Sudan, with the solar radiation varying from 3.46 to 7.43 kWh/m2/ day. The high solar density as well as the reliability and wind density therefore makes renewable energy in many Saudi Arabian regions to be of much economic viability when used as a standalone hybrid power system.
Said, El amin and Al Shehri further explained that the mean attainable wind power on the Saudi Arabian east coast to be 70.6W/m2 while the mean producible solar power was recorded to be 500W/m2. However, the mean wind power was found to be about 50W/m2 using Cp=42% while using an 18% efficiency, the solar power producible through photovoltaic cells was recorded as 90W/m2. The availability of wind power in the east coast region of Saudi Arabia according to Said, El amin and Al Shehri was found to be about 55% while the solar power availability was said to be about 39%.
Problems in the data collection
Some data sources expressed the wind power in terms of speed while others in terms of density and this was problematic in comparing the data values used. The data sources were also very scarce and had no reference of alternative regions for power production comparison purposes. These data sources were however selected since they contained detailed studies that had been carried out in the gulf region concerning renewable energy usage. They were therefore very applicable to the test question.
The null hypothesis according to the above research has to be rejected. This is because the solar energy levels of above 5.0Wh/m2 and wind speeds of 3.5m/s, which are the essential threshold in power production have been met in the gulf region, which was the area under investigation. The conclusion therefore is that there is enough wind and solar distribution in the gulf region to allow for the integration of renewable energy sources to the power grid system in the area.
The above data however as Raman et al (2007) explained shows that the wind sand solar energy systems cannot be stand alone stations and have to be integrated into standalone generator system to boos the power production since the wind and solar densities shown might vary throughout the year. Rehman et al further explain that even at wind speeds of about 6 m/s, the diesel electric production system was found to be more viable compared to the hybrid system, and the COE was found to be around 0.044$/kWh. However, the case was different at a wind speed of around 7m/s.
At this wind speed, the hybrid system using 3 generators and 5 wind turbines provided a 51% wind penetration with COE at 0.041$/kWh and NPC of $10,158, 187 (Rahman et al 2007, 646). In addition, Rahman et al explained that while a diesel system used 5,796,730 liters of diesel every year, a hybrid system with wind penetration of about 25% consumed about 4,589,087 liters of diesel. This portrayed a reduction of 20.83% of diesel consumed in electric generation. The research project therefore portrays that the renewable energy can be extensively harnessed and used in the gulf region with an integration of generator systems as back up systems to stabilize the renewable energy system.