Can Solar Help The UAE Desalinate Water?
Countries under the Gulf Cooperation Council may soon have to look to the sun for help in powering desalination plants. Current systems require huge amounts of energy, are expensive and rather inefficient. It’s likely that they won’t last for more than 30 years which is why it’s being proposed that Gulf nations take help from the sun to cover the cost of running desalination systems. According to Dr Bushnak of Bushnak Group, Gulf states should use the money saved from solar power to meet the cost of transitioning from conventionally-powered plants to solar-operated ones.
At present, the United Arab Emirates desalinates water using traditionally sourced power. Its methods include thermal and reverse osmosis which require a lot of energy produced in oil-fired plants. Since the cost of oil is rising at a near constant rate, the rich Gulf nations may soon find themselves faced with a big problem if they don’t transition soon.
If sunlight is used, it will be converted to power to drive groundwater pumps. Water is then forced through membranes to remove the salt. Dr Bushnak said that the current desalinations plants are inefficient and expensive to maintain. While cheaper to build than solar-powered plants, the cost of producing water is high.
According to Dr Bushnak, the UAE comes third in the list of largest desalinators after the US and Saudi Arabia. As such, change is needed if the UAE wants to maintain its position. He pointed out Qatar’s efforts to opt for solar desalination and expressed hope that other Gulf states would follow suit.
Abu Dhabi has already begun using solar desalinators where it announced last January that it had finished work on 22 small-scale plants. It plans to set up another 8 with each capable of producing 11,000 cubic meters of life-giving water each year. Of course, the UAE produces far more at over 1.7 million cubic meters a day which is all the more reason for the Emirates to go solar.
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