Gulf should look to solar to power desalination expert says

The Abu Dhabi Environment Agency has called on Arab Gulf states to shift their focus to solar and other renewable energy when considering power for desalination.

Water-resources manager at the Environment Agency, Dr Mohammed Dawoud, told an audience in the United Arab Emirates capital that countries in the region should consider powering desalination plants with solar and other renewable forms of energy to combat rising prices of fossil fuels and growing needs for potable water.
"Oil and gas are limited resources ... we have to find another solution, we have to find another source," he added.
Dr Dawoud was addressing desalination experts at the Solar Desalination Forum in Abu Dhabi.
"The capital cost is still high, and we are now looking to improve the cost of solar panels. By improving their efficiency in the future, this will dramatically decrease the cost," Dr Dawoud said.
He cited the agency's experience of running 30 small-scale solar powered desalination plants in Abu Dhabi since 2009. Costs at the 60 cubic metres a day plants were between US$3.7 and US$4.20 compared with production costs of between US$1.50 and US$2.30 a cubic metre in utility plants Dr Dawoud said. While the utility plants had better economies of scale the main cost difference was associated with the solar panels he said.
Professor of practice at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Hassan El Banna Fath, said he intermittency of solar and other renewable power production had to be addressed before desalination plants could rely on renewables as a power source. The need for continuous power at desalination plants. meant that investment was needed in power storage capacity before solar panels could be used mainstream. "The challenge lies in integrating a transient system with a non- transient system," he said.
Earlier this year, Masdar said it was looking for technology companies to partner with in three trial projects, which would run until the end of 2015. The aim is to build by 2020 a large-scale, commercially viable water-desalination plant powered by renewable energy.


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