The State of Qatar wants to generate 20% of its electricity requirement from solar power by 2020. This policy aims to meet the increasing electricity demand induced by increasing population and the associated urbanization with its energy-hungry life-style while adopting at the same time environmental-friendly renewable energy. Qatar's population has increased almost five times from 0.37 million to 1.74 million between 1986 and 2010, and six times between 1986 and 2014.

The electricity and water company in Qatar KAHRAMAA has reported an increase in the maximum network load from 941 MW in 1988 to 3,990 MW in 2008 and reached 6255 MW in 2012. The number of customers increased from 132,429 in 1998 to 293,604 in 2013.

This increase in demand is triggered also by changes in life-style, indicated by electricity per capita consumption figures. The per capita consumption grew from 12.963 KW to 17.774 KW in 2007.

To meet this increasing demand for electricity, and as a dry country with no hydro-power resources, Qatar has increased the number of gas-generated electricity plants in the 2000s from 3 to 8 plants. Gas energy is used to generate electricity in these plants.

Qatar is ranked as having the second-highest per capita ecological footprint among 150 countries, down from being the highest in 2012, according to the WWF's Living Planet Report. This report is published every two years. With these environmental concerns and the unstable oil prices in mind Qatar has decided to introduce clean renewable energy to produce electricity as opposed to non-renewable environmentally un-friendly natural gas.

Solar energy is arguably the most effective way to meet the increasing energy demand of Qatar and the region, for the following reasons: firstly, solar energy is renewable as opposed to the non-renewable gas and oil which are finite resources. Secondly, solar energy is clean and limits the emissions of Greenhouse Gases. Thirdly, using solar energy lengthens the life of oil and natural gas resources, and reserves them for future generations.

A preliminary analysis of solar energy potentials carried out by QF-QEERI using historical data collected by Qatar Meteorological Department (QMD), reveals that there is a high potential of solar energy in Qatar. The ground-measured yearly average Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) for Qatar is 2113 kWh/m2/year. GHI is suitable for the Photovoltaic (PV) method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity.

The selection of optimum sites for Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy production facilities has been one of the single most sought after objectives by solar scientists, and decision makers, as it can determine the success or the failure of solar projects with big budgets.

In the State of Qatar one of the main issues that faces large scale implementation of solar Photovoltaic (PV) energy production is the availability of land. With an area of 11,500 km2, including growing urban centers, agricultural farms, industrial cities, and with most of the desert areas are environmentally protected land, or used as utility corridors such as oil and gas pipes, or reserved for future plans, finding large tracks of land for solar farms is not an easy task/exercise.

Multi-criteria analysis is carried out in this study using ESRI ArcGis to identify the optimum sites for solar energy farms in the country. Criteria for land suitability for solar farms has been identified and used in the GIS analysis and model building, these are: land slope, aspects, proximity to coast-line, proximity to roads (i.e. accessibility), proximity to electric grid, restricted areas, urban areas, environmentally protected areas, and water ponds. These criteria are then used as a base for assigning suitable weights in the model building in MODEL BUILDER of ArcGis software. Different geospatial analysis techniques were included in the model such as, buffering, surface analysis and weighed overlaying of datasets.

The main result obtained in this study is the model itself, as it can be run with different sets of scenarios according to the requirements of the scientists and decision makers. The model produces maps showing the optimum sites for PV solar energy production in Qatar.

GIS is proved to be very efficient (time and cost effective) tool in finding solutions to such cumbersome problem, where many factors need to be taken into account. The project demonstrates a real application of GIS where it is used as a decision making tool at a national level projects.


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