Located just a two-hour drive from Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, vast arrays of solar panels stretch out like waves on an ocean. Despite its abundant oil reserves, the kingdom is increasingly embracing solar and wind power, partly to maintain its prominent position in the rapidly evolving energy industry, crucial for the country’s economic stability.

Surveying the expanse of 3.3 million panels sprawling over 14 square miles of desert, Faisal Al Omari, the chief executive of the recently completed Sudair solar project, expressed pride in contributing to Saudi Arabia’s energy transition. “I’m truly honored to be a part of it,” he remarked.

While oil production remains pivotal to the Saudi economy, the nation is diversifying its energy portfolio. Sudair, capable of powering 185,000 homes, marks the beginning of what could be numerous large-scale projects aimed at increasing renewable energy output, with the goal of reaching around 50 percent by 2030. Currently, renewable sources contribute negligibly to Saudi electricity generation.

However, analysts caution that achieving this ambitious target may be challenging. “If they achieve 30 percent, it would still be a significant achievement,” remarked Karim Elgendy, a climate analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Nevertheless, the kingdom is swiftly moving forward with plans to construct solar farms. “The scale you witness here is unparalleled, rivaled only by China,” noted Marco Arcelli, the chief executive of Acwa Power, the Saudi developer behind Sudair and a rising presence in the global electricity and water sectors.

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