UAE boosts its green profile with largest solar-powered desalination plant announcement

Published November 26th, 2013 - 09:29 GMT
KSA will use solar power energy to operate its proposed seawater desalination plant (Shutterstock)
KSA will use solar power energy to operate its proposed seawater desalination plant (Shutterstock)

The world’s largest solar-powered seawater desalination plant will soon be established in Ras Al Khaimah to produce more than 22 million gallons of potable water per day and 20MW of solar power.

The announcement of the plans for the new plant was made by Utico Middle East, the GCC’s largest private full-service utility and solutions provider, at the second Global IWPP (independent water and power projects) Summit, being held in Ras Al Khaimah.

Richard Menezes, Executive Vice-Chairman of Utico Middle East, said that the project would set the new benchmark for the desalination business model and will be the world’s greenest desalination plant with the least CO2 emissions. Utico earlier this month released the prequalification tender inviting bids for the IWP project, which will be co-developed by Utico and the winning bidder.

The new project will implement the most advanced reverse osmosis and filtration technologies and when operational, will push unit production rates down drastically. The reverse osmosis process forces seawater through a polymer membrane using pressure to filter out salt. “The GCC has an abundance of sunshine throughout the year and our aim will be to harness this free energy and channel it to UAE residents at extremely low cost,” Menezes said.

The solar plant venture is yet another major announcement by Utico. At last year’s inaugural Global IWPP Summit, it had announced an ambitious $408 million (AED1.5 billion) coal power plant to be set up in Ras Al Khaimah. The venture sees Utico collaborating with Shanghai Electric, the world’s biggest coal power company, to generate 270MW of clean coal power once complete in 2015.

“The new solar-powered desalination plant will complement the clean coal power plant project we announced last year,” Menezes said. “The two plants will together generate power and water while reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1 million tons CO2 per year.”

Both projects are designed to be sustainable with their unique business model.

The tender for the new solar-powered desalination plant will be announced next month. The project eclipses a similar project declared by Saudi Arabia recently by generating twice as much power as the Kingdom’s Al Khafji plant, whose output capacity will be 10 million gallon of water per day and 10MW of power once complete. It will also be larger than Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (Dewa) 10MW solar power plant inaugurated earlier this month.

The three-day Global IWPP (Independent Water and Power Projects) Summit hosts representatives of government authorities, policy-makers, regulatory authorities, utilities companies, financial institutions and technology leaders.

Organized by Fleming Gulf, the summit focuses on the issues and challenges affecting IWPPs across the globe. The summit also featured top officials from the region’s power and water providers, including the Federal Water and Electricity Authority (Fewa), Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA), Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) and Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa).

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