A major agricultural firm in Saudi Arabia has launched a new solar project to power its irrigation system. U.S.-based First Solar installed the solar array on a large organic farm owned by Al Watania, and the electricity generated from the array runs a number of pumps that supply water to the farm. The large-scale solar pilot program demonstrates the power of renewable energy with a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and may help spur the solar industry’s growth in the country.

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First Solar, an American photovoltaic manufacturer, installed a solar panel array with a 684kW capacity to power the water extraction pumps that previously ran on diesel. The pilot solar irrigation program operates on a 25,688-square meter site on the not-for-profit Al Watania organic farm in Saudi Arabia’s Al Jouf region. First Solar’s advanced thin film photovoltaic modules are well-suited to the local environment, quickly making the company one of the leading PV providers in the Middle East.

Related: Oil-rich Saudi Arabia accused of trying to block Paris climate deal

The solar experiment, jointly funded by the two companies, was meant to evaluate photovoltaics as a sustainable energy source for irrigation on a large farm. The pilot program produces 1,476 MWh of electricity per year, according to a statement from First Solar, which reduces GHG emissions by 1,100 tons per year. That is the equivalent to planting 28,000 trees each year. The solar array also eliminates 628,000 liters of diesel use annually.

“We are proud to partner with First Solar on this exciting new project, which will not only help reduce our carbon footprint, but will also allow us to explore the potential for solar to reliably support our energy needs,” said Eng. Ibrahim Aboabat, Al-Watania Agriculture CEO. “Al Watania Organic was born from our founder, Sheikh Sulaiman Abdulaziz Al Rajhi’s vision of agricultural products being sustainably farmed right here in Saudi Arabia. Implementing the use of solar electricity will help further that vision and will allow us to move towards our goal of becoming the region’s first truly sustainable large-scale agricultural operation.”

Via PV Tech

Images via Shutterstock and First Solar