First Solar and the Al Watania Agriculture Company have completed a pilot project to evaluate the use of solar electricity to sustainably power irrigation at a large farm in Saudi Arabia.
The 684-kW AC photovoltaic (PV) plant powers groundwater extraction and distribution operations at a 25,688-sq-m site on the not-for-profit Al Watania Organic Farm, which is located in the Al Jouf region.
The farm, which covers 319.2 sq km, is the kingdom’s largest producer of organic products and currently uses conventional fuel to pump water from 150 bore wells.
The project is powered by First Solar’s thin film PV modules. The facility produces 1,476 MWh of electricity per year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,100 tons per year based on national averages, which is equivalent to planting 28,000 trees per year. The solar plant replaces a diesel generator, which would ordinarily consume 628,000 litres of diesel per year, if run continuously.
Al Watania Agriculture CEO Ibrahim Aboabat says the “exciting new project” will not only help the farm reduce its carbon footprint, but will also “allow us to explore the potential for solar to reliably support our energy needs”.
The advanced thin film modules deployed at the site are ideally suited to local environmental conditions, offering a combination of a superior temperature coefficient and spectral performance, allowing for optimum performance in weather such as that of Saudi Arabia. The PV generator will pump an estimated 3.18 million cu m of water per year, unaided by conventional generators.
“Easy to deploy and able to address very specific needs, innovative solar-powered solutions can address a wide range of energy challenges, as this pilot facility demonstrates,” says Dr Raed Bkayrat, vice-president of business for First Solar in the Middle East.