RFP to follow UAE renewable-energy desalination launch

A pilot program to test and develop advanced energy-efficient seawater desalination technologies that could be powered by renewable energy sources was launched on 17 January 2013 by Masdar, the UAE renewable energy company.

Masdar will be issuing a Request for Proposals for Technological Development inviting industrial players to submit co-development proposals to pilot in‑house desalination technologies with the company. Partnerships will be co‑financed by Masdar and benefit from technological expertise available from its Institute of Technology & Science – a graduate-level, research-oriented university focused on advanced energy and sustainability.

The long-term goal of the program is to implement renewable-energy powered desalination plants in the UAE and to have a commercial-scale facility by 2020.

“With the UAE’s growing economy and rising population, it is crucial that we identify a sustainable desalination solution to meet our long-term water needs,” said Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar. “Connecting desalination technologies to renewable energy enables us to capitalize on our abundant resources, such as solar, as a solution to improve water security.”

The pilot program is a direct result of a call to action to improve water security made by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, which will stimulate growth, promote investment and advance the desalination sector.

Working with technology partners and investors, the pilot program includes three test sites in the UAE and will operate for 3½ years. The program will bridge the gap between promising desalination technologies, which are being developed in universities and research centers worldwide, and large-scale industrial applications powered by renewable energy.

“The Middle East is in the process of addressing its long-term sustainable water access and security,” said Dr Corrado Sommariva, president of the International Desalination Association at the launch. “Masdar is embarking on an important path of discovery by advancing industrial-scale, sustainable desalination technologies capable of meeting the region’s future demand for fresh drinking water.”

“By bridging the gap between research and development and commercialization, Masdar is providing an opportunity for scale-up of technologies that address water access, while also having economic, social and environmental benefits,” Sommariva added.

The Gulf region accounts for nearly 50% of the world’s desalinated water. In the UAE, seawater desalination requires about 10 times more energy than surface fresh water production, and its costs are projected to increase by 300%, says Masdar.

Masdar will coordinate the pilot program with key Abu Dhabi stakeholders, such as the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, the Regulation & Supervision Bureau, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, and the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company.

“This is a collective challenge that will require a cooperative effort from the public and private sector,” said Dr Al Jaber. “Through co-innovation, and working closely with partner companies, we anticipate real opportunities to bring to market the next generation of sustainable desalination technologies.”