Big oil going big solar

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Oil economies recognize that they can make more money by spicing it up with some solar. Saudi Arabia is the best example. The nation is no longer wanting to use its oil for domestic electricity, but instead looking at hundreds of GW worth of solar power and energy storage. Late last year, California’s largest solar power project was announced – an 850 MW solar thermal facility (image of sister facility in Oman below) – which will generate steam to help pump oil from the ground. And of course, Shell’s name can be found all over pv magazine.

In this case, MMEX Resources Corp announced (PDF) that with an expansion of it’s current facilities, the company is hoping to lower its electricity costs, and to avoid costly upgrade requirements in the stressed power grid of Western Texas, with a behind-the-meter solar power plant.

We have entered into preliminary discussions to lease additional acreage allowing us to develop an additional 75 MW to 100 MW of solar power. Our planned refinery complex will utilize about two MW of power in Phase1(a) and (b) and about 35-50 MW in Phase 2. We believe the remainder of the power can be sold into the grid.

The facility, a 10,000 barrel-per-day distillation unit, has a 1 MW solar plant in development, which will supply up to half of the instantaneous power needs of the facility.

The company noted that a new double-circuit 345 kW electric transmission line was recently requested by the utilities due to “increasing generation interconnection requests and growth in electrical demand by the oil and gas industry in the Far West Texas area”.

Historically, the oil companies have been known as key investors in solar power because of its ability to provide consistent electricity for remote oil derricks. MMEX simply wants to cut the costs of their operations and maintenance a bit.

For larger economies such as Saudi Arabia, there is the need to stave off future economic crises when oil prices fall, and the inherent political uncertainties that couple such events.