Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, has started to test advanced solar thermal technology as part of its pilot project to develop energy efficient, cost competitive and commercially viable seawater desalination.
Three solar thermal collector systems, each supplied by a different specialist, have been installed at the site of Masdar’s Renewable Energy Desalination Programme in Ghantoot. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology, will monitor the operational and cost efficiency of the collector systems and their suitability for larger scale applications.
The technologically advanced systems capture the heat of the sun to drive the seawater desalination process as an alternative to burning natural gas. Empereal Energy Services, EMSOL Innovations and GREENoneTEC are participating in the trial.
“Nearly all of the water consumed in the GCC comes from seawater desalination, so there is an urgent need for more sustainable, less energy intensive solutions which can be operated at scale,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, Chief Executive Officer of Masdar, at an inauguration ceremony to celebrate the launch of the solar collectors.
“Our renewable energy desalination programme has been delivering very impressive results for Masdar and our partners since its launch 18 months ago, and the introduction of solar thermal technology represents the next phase in its development. We’re delighted to welcome Empereal, Emsol and GREENoneTEC to the programme.”
Dr. Steve Griffiths, Interim Executive Vice President of Research at Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “The UAE’s plentiful solar energy, which can be collected in the form of solar thermal energy, is viewed as an attractive option to provide energy for various stages of seawater desalination, which provides the majority of the freshwater used in the country. That is why we are proud to support this project and others that help make the UAE’s water and energy systems more sustainable, and are confident the Ghantoot collaboration will advance the UAE’s goal of achieving widespread use of solar-powered desalination.”
The three solar thermal collector systems each provide process heat with a temperature of around 95 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for the desalination process. The objective is to monitor how the technology performs in order to better understand how it can optimise the desalination process, as well as to gauge its suitability for other potential uses.
Manoj Divakaran, Managing Director of Empereal Energy, said: “Tapping heat energy from the sun to meet the thermal energy requirements of various processes like desalination is very viable for this region and we are delighted to be part of this futuristic initiative by Masdar.”
Jaiprakash Karna, CEO, EMSOL, said: “EMSOL Innovations is proud to partner with Masdar for this innovative solar desalination project, and to contribute to the UAE’s strategic priorities. The installed system is based on technology developed by EMSOL in collaboration with the University of California, and it provides a maintenance-free way to ensure high conversion efficiency, even under cloud cover.”
Robert Kanduth, CEO, GREENoneTEC, said: “In the global solar market GREENoneTEC has advanced to become the brand for highest production quality and innovation. We are proud to contribute in partnership with Millennium Energy Industries to help solve one of the biggest problems globally - water supply."
Ennis Rimawi, Chairman of Millennium Energy Industries (MEI Solar), said: “As we look back at the past decade, Masdar was always ahead of its time as the regional leader in creating a renewable energy ecosystem. With solar desalination, Masdar continues to drive innovation, and we are happy to also join forces as Millennium Energy Industries has designed and implemented one of the world’s largest solar heating systems, 25MWth in 2011.”
Masdar’s pilot programme has been testing five projects in energy efficient seawater desalination on the Ghantoot coast for 18 months. Four companies – Abengoa, Suez, Sidem (Veolia) and Mascara – are evaluating reverse osmosis technology, while a fifth – Trevi Systems – is researching forward osmosis.
According to preliminary results presented during the International Water Summit in January, all five plants are operating more than twice as efficiently as the standard flash thermal technology used to produce most of the Gulf region’s potable water. The plants are expected to be even more energy efficient when deployed at scale.