Plans for a series of desalination plants powered by renewables have been announced in Abu Dhabi by leading clean energy research institution Masdar.
It plans to run a pilot program over the next three years, with a view to running commercial scale facilities by 2020.
Access to affordable drinking water is an increasingly critical issue for states in the Middle East, which accounts for 50% of the world’s desalinated water.
This process requires about 10 times more energy than surface fresh water production, and is usually powered by oil or gas. Costs are projected to increase by 300%.
“Connecting desalination technologies to renewable energy enables us to capitalize on our abundant resources, such as solar, as a solution to improve water security,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the CEO of Masdar.
“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,”
Masdar is also taking steps to reduce demand for water in Abu Dhabi. New houses are designed to use 54% less potable water and 51% less electricity than business as usual.
Saudi Arabia recently announced a $100 billion plan to power 30 state-run water plants by solar or wind energy.
These currently consume 1.5 million barrels of oil per day.