Saudi Arabia is to begin evaluating its potential for generating renewable energy, as part of a strategy that could free up more of its crude oil resources for export.
According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) will install about 70 stations across the Gulf state to measure the potential for energy production from sun, wind and geothermal sources. Ten of these stations are already in place.
The findings of the plan will be published later this year and will provide potential investors with guidance on where to build plants.
Saudi Arabia in February published a roadmap for its renewable energy programme, aimed at reducing the amount of oil it burns in power stations.
The world's top oil exporter aims to install 23.9 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020 and 54.1 GW by 2032. If these targets are fulfilled, they would make Saudi Arabia one of the world's main generators of renewable electricity.
Global installed capacity for photovoltaic (PV) solar power, the most common solar technology, was in 2011 69.4 GW, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2012.
The Gulf country has crude output capacity of approximately 12.5m barrels a day, but domestic consumption is rapidly increasing and could impact the number of barrels that are available for export.
KACARE, the authority in charge of the government’s renewable programme, last year published its vision for a long-term energy mix that relied on big contributions from solar and nuclear energy.