United Arab Emirates-based renewable energy company Masdar has launched a pilot program to test and develop energy-efficient seawater desalination technologies suitable to be powered by renewable energy sources.
The pilot program includes three test sites in the UAE and will operate for three and a half years. By pairing energy efficient desalination technologies with renewable energy, the program aims to significantly reduce consumption of conventional fuels. Masdar hopes that the program will bridge the gap between promising desalination technologies, which are being developed in universities and research centers worldwide, and large-scale industrial applications powered by renewable energy.
The long-term goal of the program is to have a facility at commercial scale by 2020.
The availability of potable water, particularly in the Gulf region where water production is a costly and energy-intensive process, is one of the “most pressing issues” in the world, according to Masdar. The Gulf region currently accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s desalinated water.
But in the UAE, seawater desalination requires about 10 times more energy than surface fresh water production, and its costs are projected to increase by 300 percent, Masdar says. Connecting desalination technologies to renewable energy would enable the region to capitalize on its abundant resources, such as solar power, as a solution to improve water security, the company says.
Masdar will coordinate the pilot program with Abu Dhabi stakeholders, such as the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority, the Regulation and Supervision Bureau, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, and the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company.
Masdar, which released its first sustainability report earlier this month, will be issuing a request for proposals inviting industrial players to submit co-development plans to pilot in-house desalination technologies with Masdar. Partnerships will be co-financed by Masdar and benefit from technological expertise available from the Masdar Institute of Technology and Science.
Earlier this year, Israel-based IDE Technologies signed a contract with Kiewit Shea Desalination to design and supply equipment for the largest seawater desalination plant in the US, located near the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad, California. The Carlsbad Project will begin construction in 2013 and produce up to 54 million gallons of fresh water per day in 2016 using IDE’s reverse osmosis process, the companies said.