The world’s second-largest oil producer is taking a giant step toward diversifying its energy supply—and its economic portfolio—with a US$500 million wind farm. Under development by a consortium that includes French energy giant EDF Renewables and UAE powerhouse Masdar, the megaproject is part of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative aimed at building a more diverse and sustainable power supply. There’s definitely some work to be done: In 2019, oil and gas accounted for 100 percent of the country’s energy consumption and half of its GDP.
Construction on Dumat Al Jandal—Saudi Arabia’s first wind farm—reached a critical milestone in July when the first of nearly 100 turbines arrived in the country and began their journey to the project site, located 900 kilometers (559 miles) north of Riyadh.
Under a 20-year agreement, the farm will provide electricity to the Saudi Power Procurement Co. when commercial operations are slated to begin in 2022. The 400-megawatt facility “is enabling us to establish a competitive renewable energy sector in the kingdom while reducing our carbon emissions,” said the company’s CEO Osama bin Abdulwahab Khawandanah.
Billed as the largest wind farm in the Middle East, Dumat Al Jandal will supply electricity for as many as 70,000 homes in Saudi Arabia and displace around 988,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Along with the sustainability benefits, Masdar CEO Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi said the project aims to achieve “a lasting positive community impact through procuring skills and materials in Saudi Arabia, supporting local jobs and businesses, and accelerating knowledge transfer.”
Some 800 jobs are expected to be created during construction and another 150 during operation of the wind farm. And that could be just the start: A report by the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council found growing investment in renewables could generate up to 750,000 Saudi jobs over the next 10 years, and researchers estimate that the kingdom could meet 26 percent of its electricity needs with wind energy alone.