ABU DHABI, U.A.E., Jan. 18, 2012 – Desalination has historically been a large consumer of energy and questions have been raised over whether fossil-fuelled power sources can be replaced on a large scale by solar and wind renewable alternatives.
A project between IBM Research and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia has been looking at commercial scale solar desalination for some time (see Water & Wastewater International story).
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) is more than two thirds of the way through a trial to construct 30 solar desalination plants across the Emirate.
The pilot project launched in Umm Al Zamool aims to test solar desalination and each of the 22 plants built so far produces around 1,100 gallons of clean water per hour - approximately 6,600 gallons on an average day. Touted as “zero-carbon”, each unit generates an average of 35 kilowatts per hour, making a total of 1050 kilo-watt/hour.
Each solar array measures 300 square metres at each site and this powers a pump that abstracts groundwater from a well. After a reverse osmosis membrane filtration, a subsurface irrigation system then pumps the clean water to a pond. The brine, or waste-water from the process, is pumped to a separate evaporation pond.
Plants are being used to create watering holes for newly introduced Arabian Oryx, which were extinct in the wild by 1972, but bred into captivity and being slowly reintroduced.