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EAD completes construction of 22 solar desalination plants

Sunday, 22 January 2012


ABU DHABI (AE) – The Environment Agency announced today the completion of the construction of 22 solar desalination plants as part of the Agency project to construct 30 solar desalination plants in different locations across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The announcement was made at the World Future Energy Summit 2012, which is being held in Abu Dhabi from 16 to 19 January at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces.

Solar desalination is an innovative zero-carbon technology that extracts brackish saline water from groundwater aquifers and transforms it into fresh potable water. EAD is still testing this new solar desalination technique and working on perfecting the efficiency of this method through its pilot project launched in Umm Al Zamool. The purpose of this pilot project is to provide findings and translate them into recommendations to develop more stations and reduce the cost of its capital cost in the future and increase efficiency at the same time. Each of the plant produces around 1,100 gallons of clean water per hour ’ approximately 6,600 gallons on an average day. As well as providing invaluable information about the feasibility of using renewable energy to supply the emirate’s future water needs, the project is also helping to support one of the region’s most important conservation programmes. The Arabian Oryx, which went extinct in the wild in 1972, is being bred in captivity and reintroduced into its former habitats thanks to an innovative initiative led by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi. Many of the solar desalination plants have been placed in areas where the Arabian Oryx is being released. The plants are being used to create watering holes for the newly-introduced oryxes, as well as irrigate natural vegetation to create food and shelter for these animals.

H.E Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD, said that ‘The use of renewable sources of energy is an essential part of the future of desalination in this region and this project is in line with EAD’s strategy to pursue the latest innovation in the field of water production and to adopt the best economic and environmental methods in order to meet the rising demand for water and therefore ensure water security in the future.

Al Mubarak added: ‘EAD has developed a sustainable mechanism for the safe disposal of brine water from these stations and is working with Masdar Institute to study the possibility of increasing the efficiency of these plants.’This new solar desalination technique is a zero-carbon process. It reduces the cost of water treatment, especially in desert areas where dust and high temperatures impair the efficiency of solar panels used in the existing desalination system. Each unit generates an average of 35 kilowatts per hour, making a total of 1050 kilo-watt/hour,’ said Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, Director of Biodiversity Management Sector at EAD.

‘Each solar array measures 300 square metres at each site and this powers a pump that abstracts groundwater from a well. Reverse osmosis uses pressure to separate clean water from brackish water through a semi-permeable membrane. 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,’ he added.

During the World Future Energy Summit, an illustrative model of a solar-powered water desalination plant was unveiled at the EAD stand.

© The Environment Agency