Saudi solar desalination push nears end of Phase 1

The first of three phases of the King Abdullah Initiative for Solar Water Desalination is expected to be operational by the end of this year, according to reports from Saudi Arabia.

Phase 1 involves construction of two solar‑energy plants which will generate 10 MW of power for a 30,000 m³/d reverse‑osmosis (RO) desalination plant at Al Khafji, near Saudi’s Kuwait border. It will meet the needs of 100,000 people.

Phase 2 will involve construction of a 300,000 m³/d desalination plant as soon as Phase 1 finishes. This will take three years.

The third phase aims to implement the initiative throughout Saudi Arabia with the eventual target of seeing all the country’s desalination plants powered by solar energy by 2020. These projects will be implemented by an industrial consortium that uses the technologies developed jointly by King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) and IBM, and markets it throughout the world within the framework of the Industrial National Strategy led by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

KACST is aiming towards practical application of advanced nanotechnology techniques in the production of solar energy systems and membranes for water desalination. These techniques have been developed through the KACST/IBM Joint Center for Nanotechnology Research.

One of the main objectives of this initiative is to desalinate seawater at a cost of less than Riyal 1.5/m³ (US$ 0.40/m³) compared with the current cost of thermal desalination, which KACST says is in the range Riyal 2.0‑5.5/m³ (US$ 0.53‑1.47/m³), and desalination by RO, which is Riyal 2.5‑5.5/m³ (US$ 0.67‑1.47/m³) for a desalination plant producing 30,000 m³/d.