Physical and economic factors and their effects on development of solar energy in Saudi Arabia
The search for alternative energy resources began early in this century after the discovery of crude oil, but in 1973, when crude oil prices dramatically increased, the search for new energy sources intensified. The conservation of oil consumption, mainly in industrial countries has been more strictly applied, due to the limited quantities of fossil fuels, especially crude oil which is expected to be depleted within the next few decades. Moreover, the increasing level of air pollution and its severe consequences on human, animal, and plant life and climate, has forced the world to try to reduce air pollution emissions in the short-run, and to search for more reliable, renewable energy resources. Amongst renewable energy resources, solar energy has attracted much attention due to its unique characteristics, including its wide availability in huge quantities, particularly at the middle latitudes, its relatively simple harnessing compared with nuclear energy, and most importantly, its clean source which does not discharge any pollution emission. The intensity of solar radiation in Saudi Arabia reaches an average of 290 wm-2, one of the highest insolation values in the world. Here attention has been focused on solar energy as the main alternative sources of power. However, there is a great variation in the distribution of incoming solar radiation within Saudi Arabia. This variation is attributed mainly to six major factors. They include the following: 1. Sunshine duration 2. Insolation index 3. Altitude of the station 4. Specific humidity 5. Cloud cover, and 6. Dust storms. In order to measure the effect of each factor mentioned above on the variation of incoming solar radiation, a multiple linear regression model is developed and used. This is the most appropriate method to explain the interrelationships between the determinants and their dependent variable. In addition to the physical factors, the human factor is considered in this thesis as a result of the crucial effect of the perspectives and attitudes of people upon solar energy development. Therefore, a questionnaire was conducted at Al-Uyaynah Village, northwest of Riyadh, which has a solar-generated electricity in Saudi Arabia.