The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has finalized plans to build the world’s largest solar-powered desalination plant in the northeastern city of Al Khafji.
According to the country’s officials, the solar-powered desalination plant will treat around 60,000 square meters of seawater daily for local residents in the city. The project, due to be completed in 2017, will supply more than 100,000 residents with clean water every day, leaving no carbon trace.
Because of its solar-power, the plant will be able to produce surplus energy during the day. The surplus energy will then be used by the plant in the night, enabling the plant to produce zero carbon emissions, becoming the first zero carbon emission desalination plant in the world, according to environmental observers.
As fresh water in the world gradually becomes scarce, some countries that have access to the sea, are now turning to it as an alternative. However, turning the salty seawater into fresh water is an expensive procedure.
However, with the renewable energy to power the plant for the Saudis, the cost of getting fresh water will be significantly reduced. Clean energy activists say renewable energy offers a chance at lowering both costs and emissions. At the 2013 World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, renewable-powered desalination was a highly contested issue.
Since Saudi Arabia announced its desalination project, it is attracting foreign partners. The country’s newly formed company, Advanced Water Technology (AWT) – which will play a lead role in building the plant – is currently making an effort to bring together all foreign companies who have expressed an interest. Abengoa is the latest company to have announced its intention to partner with AWT.
According to AWT, the plant will have a 15-megawatt solar array, using polycrystalline solar cells engineered by the research agency.
The energy efficient desalination plant will also include energy recovery, energy storage, and other efficiency systems, thus complementing the solar array.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest oil-rich nations in the world. In 2013, the country announced a gradual transition from fuel-powered plants to renewable energy ones. Environmental activists have praised the country for their initiative to power the desalination plant via the use of renewable energy. The renewable source of energy will ensure that the desalination plant will continue to function, even if fuel supplies run out in the country. It will also save the environment from further carbon emissions.
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