Danish wind energy company Vestas expects to complete a wind atlas of Saudi Arabia on behalf of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-Care) by the end of 2015.

Detailed data from 40 meteorological (met) masts placed across the kingdom will provide developers with a guide to the best sites, potentially opening the way for wind energy projects.

“We have two categories; real markets, which have all the regulations and policies for renewables in place and certain projects we are following, like Jordan, Egypt and Morocco,” says Noaman al-Adhami, senior director of business development Middle-East at Vestas. “Then there are markets which we think have a big potential to be realised, most of all Saudi Arabia.”

In its 2013 White Paper, KA-Care announced a total of 1,700MW of wind projects in two rounds, although the main focus was on solar power. It expected to award the first contracts in early 2014.

However, no tangible progress has been made, and other bodies in Saudi Arabia may take over responsibility.

“The renewables industry is still waiting for Saudi Arabia as the biggest market in the region,” says a consultant based in the region. “We are maintaining contacts with KA-Care, who are still active, as the future situation is undecided.”

But Vestas remain optimistic about future opportunities in Saudi Arabia in the long term, when the regulatory framework is more developed.

“We don’t have doubts that the market will come, but it’s not a race,” says Al-Adhami. “We prefer to wait for policies that will attract the right level of companies and investors, rather than doing something quick, which is not sustainable.”

The wind energy market has been even slower to take off than solar, which has huge potential and an established market in the region. But detailed mapping and the latest generation of wind turbines could make projects more attractive to developers.

“With wind resources, you get more interesting sites when you zoom in. Mesoscale maps can give you an indication, and then met masts provide detailed meteorological surveys of sites with potential,” says Al-Adhami. “The technology has evolved over the past five or 10 years, and wind turbines can capture wind as slow as 3.5 metres a second.”

Follow Philippa Wilkinson on Twitter: @Philippa_MEED