KACST embarks on solar desalination project

Posted on Jan 31, 2015

By MD RASOOLDEEN KACST embarks on solar desalination projectPhoto Credit:Reuters/Mike Blake
The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) signed an agreement with the Advance Water Technology Company (AWTC) for planning out the design and construction of solar water desalination plant in Khafji with a production capacity of 60,000 cubic meters per day. The accord was signed by KACST President Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, who was named on Thursday as the new telecommunication and IT minister, and Abdullah Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, CEO of Advanced Water Technology Company, in the presence of Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) Gov. Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al-Ibrahim, KACST Vice President for Research Institutes Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saud and deputy head Abdulaziz bin Mohammed Suwailem.

The city has set up a production line for solar panels, where it works with a number of engineers and technicians to produce solar cells and nutrients.

KACST plans to apply 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. The initiative aims at finding technical solutions to address energy and water problems, and thus contribute to the national economy.

The objective of the first phase of the initiative is to build a solar plant for reverse osmosis (RO) water desalination in the city of Khafji with a capacity of up to 60,000 cubic meters per day. It also aims to build a solar power plant with a capacity of 20 megawatts in mid-2015 to supply electricity to the desalination plant so that the two plants open in the first quarter of 2017.

The Advanced Water Technology Company, a subsidiary of Saudi Development and Technical Investment, is owned by the Public Investment Fund and was established to invest research outputs and application programs of strategic character, which include water and water security sources of the Kingdom

Water desalination is considered the best strategic choice to provide drinking water for the Kingdom. It is already producing more than 18 percent of the world’s desalinated water. However, the cost of producing desalinated water is high due to the substantial energy consumption of the desalination plants. Therefore, reducing the energy cost will be positively reflected in the production cost.

With the advantage of having a high level of year-round sunshine, the Kingdom is estimated to harness about 2,000 kilowatts per square meter per year (2000 kWh/m2/year). KACST has been working for some time on its research and development for harnessing solar energy.

One of the main objectives of this initiative is to desalinate seawater at a cost less than SR1.5 per cubic meter compared to the current cost of desalination of seawater by thermal technology, which is in the SR2.5 to SR5.5 per cubic meter range, and desalination by RO, which is in the SR2.5 to SR5.5 per cubic meter range for a desalination plant producing 30,000 cubic meters per day. The cost of electricity generated by the new technology of solar photovoltaic will be less than 30 halalas per kilowatt-hour.

The Ministries of Finance, Water and Electricity and Commerce and Industry and SWCC are participating in this initiative with KACST.

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