JEDDAH – The University of Tokyo, private companies and a semi-governmental financial institution will jointly participate in a large-scale solar power generation project in Saudi Arabia.
It is aimed partly at pursuing Japan’s new energy strategy as there is growing concern that if oil runs out in Saudi Arabia, it will deal a possibly fatal blow to Japan, which relies on the Middle Eastern country for roughly 30 percent of the oil it consumes.
The University of Tokyo’s "Endowed Chair for Global Solar (Plus) Initiative," financially supported by electronics giant Sharp Corp. and leading engineering company JCG Corp. as well as the semi-governmental Development Bank of Japan Inc., will help develop technology and design the solar power system.
The endowed chair is set to sign a contract with the Kind Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE), Saudi Arabia’s governmental organization that supervises nuclear power and eco-friendly energy development, in August.
Under the project, Saudi Arabia is aiming to secure all energy consumed in the country from solar power generation.
However, its demand for oil has kept increasing, and its domestic energy consumption is feared to surpass the amount of energy it is capable of producing by 2028. Moreover, the volume of energy Saudi Arabia will need between 2030 and 2040 is estimated to increase to 2.7 times that currently consumed in Japan.
University of Tokyo associate professor Gento Mogi, another co-leader of the endowed chair, describes the situation as "a matter of life and death for Japan, which relies on Saudi Arabia for one-third of its imports of crude oil."
The University of Tokyo set up the "Endowed Chair for Global Solar (Plus) Initiative" in November last year. Saudi Arabia, which has been seeking to solve its long-term energy problem, deemed that the endowed chair’s goal will satisfy its desire, and the two sides agreed to cooperate.
In the project, experts from both countries will measure the amount of sunlight across Saudi Arabia, and set up a solar power generation system with an output of hundreds to thousands of kilowatts in two- to four-kilometer-square areas suitable for power generation. – SG