World’s largest solar-powered desalinisation plant to be built in Saudi Arabia

The world’s first large-scale solar powered water desalination plant is set to be built in Saudi Arabia, after a local company revealed it would build a $130 million facility alongside a 15MW solar PV plant.

Advanced Water Technology, the commercial arm of the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology has commissioned Spanish renewable energy group Abengoa to incorporate the plant into the desalination facility.Abengoa will build the solar PV plant with tracking, and expects it to provide all the desalination plant’s energy needs during peak output – which in Saudi Arabia will be for much of the daylight hours.

The plant will supply Al Khafji City in the north-east of the country, with the aim of producing 60,000 cubic metres of water a day.

It is due to be commissioned in 2017.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), less than 1 per cent of the world’s desalination is powered by renewables, and most of these plants – in Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and the Canary Islands – are very small scale.

Saudi Arabia currently burns 1.5 million barrels of oil per day at its desalination plants, which provides 50 per cent to 70 per cent of its drinking water.

Total desalination demand in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring gulf countries and north Africa is expected to treble to 110 million cubic metres a day by 2030.

Abengoa said the incorporation of solar PV would be a “global pioneering project” and would significantly reduce the operating costs of the plant.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson