interviews

Clean Energy Near The Red Sea: An interview with Marco Castillo of Red Sea Global

Red Sea Global is building two huge regenerative tourism destinations in the Red Sea, one of which is set to become the largest tourism destination in the world powered by renewable energy. REM talked to Marco Castillo, Director, Dry Utilities, Construction, Projects Delivery at Red Sea Global about the project.
Clean Energy Near The Red Sea: An interview with Marco Castillo of Red Sea Global
Solar panels at the Red Sea. Courtesy of Red Sea Global.

What is Red Sea Global doing with renewable energy at its destinations?

Red Sea Global (RSG) is actively pursuing a commitment to power its two destinations, The Red Sea and Amaala, with 100 percent renewable energy. This forms part of our ambition to be a pioneer of regenerative tourism, going beyond sustainability to positively impact the environment, society, and the economy. While renewable energy isn’t “regenerative” in itself, it is impossible to achieve our vision without it and it represents a core part of our developments.

The Red Sea will be powered by sunlight, day and night. Our five solar farms for Phase One of the development are at 100 percent completion, with 760,000 photovoltaic panels in place, and Amaala is on track to be powered in the same way. With no connection to the national grid, at The Red Sea destination we are also creating one of the world’s largest off-grid battery storage facilities, which can store 1,200 MWh of energy.

Overall, the solar infrastructure is expected to generate up to 1.1 million gross MWh per year of solar energy to supply resorts, attractions, and other utility systems. Our mobility network will be powered in the same way - it won’t just feature electric vehicles, but ones charged using renewable energy. At full production capacity, the solar farms will avoid up to 620,000 tCO2eq per year.

The decision to use clean energy for our ambitions at The Red Sea, where we will operate 50 hotels, encompassing 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential buildings, reflects our commitment to deliver tourism in a more responsible, sustainable way. It is also allowing us to establish ground-breaking technological initiatives, such as the world’s first zero-carbon 5G network at the Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea.

We believe these achievements can help transform perceptions of tourism as a positive, rather than destructive, force on the environment here in the Kingdom and beyond.

What sources of clean energy will be used?

We have made significant investments in solar energy as part of our ambition to set new standards in sustainable development.

Central to our achievements has been our partnership with ACWA Power, which is leading the Marafiq Red Sea for Energy consortium for The Red Sea destination. This covers designing, building, and operating The Red Sea’s utilities infrastructure for 25 years, delivering 100 percent clean power, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The consortium is also working to provide potable water, wastewater treatment, solid waste management and district cooling across the destination, which spans an area the size of a small country. In addition, Marafiq Red Sea for Energy has installed a large part of the ICT infrastructure for the destination, although it will not provide the connectivity itself, and RSG will take responsibility for its effective and sustainable operation.

A commitment to renewable energy is also reflected in our smart mobility strategy for the destination. We are implementing a strategy for destination-wide clean mobility using electric and hybrid vehicles, boats, and aircraft – and, last year, purchased a fleet of carbon-neutral electric buses, which was a first for Saudi Arabia. Electric vehicles will also be used for waste collection, encompassing land and marine vessels.

By bringing together solar panels and stations, utilities infrastructure, and a smart transport network, we are poised to fulfill our vision of destinations powered entirely by clean and renewable energy.

Tell me about the most important, unique renewable energy features that RSG is implementing.

There are a lot of features to choose from, but something we’re particularly excited about is the Red Sea International Airport, which is set to be truly game-changing.

Like the rest of The Red Sea destination, the airport is set to be powered solely by renewable energy, making it the first carbon-neutral airport in the Middle East.

Located within eight hours of flight time for 85 percent of the global population, we’re looking forward to offering our guests a seamless, luxurious, and sustainable airport experience as they arrive to and depart from unforgettable stays. In addition, the airport design, which is integrated smoothly with the natural environment, is a sight to behold and will further boost the overall visitor experience.

What are your plans for adding to the renewable energy infrastructure in the future?    

We have made excellent progress so far at The Red Sea and will be welcoming our first guests soon, but we recognise that we still have work to do until the destination’s completion in 2030 – not just at that development. For example, Amaala is on track to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy in the same way and so this will be a major focus for us ahead of welcoming its first guests in 2025. We will be applying the lessons learned at The Red Sea to our work at Amaala and are fully confident about delivering against our objectives.

For additional information:

Red Sea Global (RSG)

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