Masdar today launched a pilot program to test and develop advanced energy-efficient seawater desalination technologies suitable to be powered by renewable energy sources. The long-term goal of the program is to implement renewable energy-powered desalination plants in the United Arab Emirates and to have a facility at commercial scale by 2020.
The pilot program is a direct result of a call to action to improve water security made by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, which will stimulate growth, promote investment and advance the desalination sector.
“The availability of potable water is one of the most pressing issues in the world, particularly in the Gulf region where water production is a costly and energy-intensive process,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company.
“With the UAE’s growing economy and rising population, it is crucial that we identify a sustainable desalination solution to meet our long-term water needs,” added Dr. Al Jaber. “Connecting desalination technologies to renewable energy enables us to capitalize on our abundant resources, such as solar, as a solution to improve water security.
“As a global leader accelerating new energy and sustainable development, Masdar is taking serious action to tackle this problem directly. This program is the critical first step in identifying viable technologies that will lead to water security for future generations,” said Dr. Al Jaber.
Working with technology partners and investors, the pilot program includes three test sites in the UAE and will operate for 3.5 years. By pairing state-of-the-art energy efficient desalination technologies with renewable energy, the program aims to significantly reduce energy consumption. 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 Middle East is in the process of addressing its long-term sustainable water access and security,” said Dr. Corrado Sommariva, president of the International Desalination Association. “Masdar is embarking on an important path of discovery by advancing industrial-scale, sustainable desalination technologies capable of meeting the region’s future demand for fresh drinking water. By bridging the gap between research and development and commercialization, Masdar is providing an opportunity for scale-up of technologies that address water access, while also having economic, social and environmental benefits.”
The Gulf region, an arid part of the world with scarce water resources, accounts for nearly 50 percent of the world’s desalinated water. 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 will coordinate the pilot program with key 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.
“In parallel to its own efforts, ADWEA looks forward to collaborating with Masdar on the development of desalination technologies with improved energy efficiency in line with our commitment to improving the sustainability of our operations,” said H.E. Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority. “We strongly support such collaboration and Masdar’s efforts in this regard.”
Masdar will be issuing a Request for Proposals for Technological Development inviting industrial players to submit co-development proposals 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 – a graduate-level, research-oriented university focused on advanced energy and sustainability.
“This is a collective challenge that will require a cooperative effort from the public and private sector,” said Dr. Al Jaber. “Through co-innovation, and working closely with partner companies, we anticipate real opportunities to bring to market the next generation of sustainable desalination technologies.”
The announcement of the desalination pilot program was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research; H.E. Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority; Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency; and Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The desalination pilot program was announced at the inaugural International Water Summit, a participating event of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week – the largest gathering on sustainability in the history of the Middle East. The conference, taking place from January 15-17, 2013, is a platform dedicated to driving investment, encouraging collaboration and providing companies with a platform to showcase promising, cutting-edge water technologies.