Saudis launch national solar desalination initiative

The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology announced on 24 January 2010 the launch of the National Initiative for Solar Water Desalination (NISWD) under the patronage of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The initial phase will see a 30,000 m³/d plant built in three years.

The project will involve the participation of four government bodies: the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Water & Electricity, the General Organization for Water Desalination and the Ministry of Trade & Industry.

The city mayor, Dr Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel, said that the initiative aimed to find technical solutions at low costs to contribute to the national economy. He pointed to the development of advanced technologies through the Joint Center for Nanotechnology Research between the city and IBM Global, a move aimed towards the practical application of advanced nanotechnology in the production of solar energy systems and membranes for water desalination.

The mayor stressed the importance of this national initiative since desalination was a strategic choice to ensure drinking water for the kingdom. Saudi Arabia provides more than 18% of the world’s production of desalinated water

Dr Al-Suwaiyel pointed out that the increased cost of producing desalinated water stemmed from the consumption of energy in the desalination plants, and, therefore, work to reduce the cost of energy would reflect positively on reducing the cost of production.

The implementation of the NISWD will be in three stages over nine years. The first phase aims to build a desalination plant with a production capacity of 30,000 m³/d to meet the drinking water needs of the town of Al Khafji. This would involve construction of a solar energy production capacity of 10 MW and reverse-osmosis membranes, in a period of three years.

The second phase, aimed at building a desalination plant solar with a production capacity of 300,000 m³/d, would take three years.

The third phase would involve the construction of several plants for solar desalination in all parts of the kingdom. The technology developed would also be licensed outside Saudi Arabia.