NEOM and Solar Water Plc to build desalination project in Saudi Arabia

NEOM solarNEOM has signed an agreement with UK-based Solar Water Plc to build the first-ever solar dome desalination plants in NEOM, located in northwest Saudi Arabia

The pilot project aims to revolutionise the water desalination process, helping solve one of the world's most pressing problems – access to freshwater. The work will begin in February and is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

At an estimated US$0.34/ cu/m, the cost of producing water via solar dome technology will be significantly lower than desalination plants using reverse osmosis methods. The technology will significantly reduce the impact on the environment by producing more concentrated brine, a potentially harmful byproduct of the water extraction process.

Commenting on the project, Abdulrahman Al-Fadli, Saudi Arabia's minister of environment, water and agriculture, said, “NEOM's adoption of this pilot supports Saudi Arabia's sustainability goals, as outlined in the country's National Water Strategy 2030, and is fully aligned with the sustainable development goals set out by the United Nations.”

Solar Water's ground-breaking approach, developed at the U.K.'s Cranfield University, represents the first use, on a large scale, of concentrating solar power (CSP) technology in seawater desalination. The process sees seawater pumped into a hydrological ‘solar dome’ made from glass and steel before it is superheated, evaporated and eventually precipitated as freshwater.

The ‘solar dome’ desalination process, which can operate at night due to the stored solar energy generated throughout the day, is expected to reduce the total amount of brine that is created during the water extraction process. Typically, the high salt concentration in brine makes it more difficult and expensive to process. The solar dome process helps prevent any damage to marine life as no brine is discharged into the sea.

With more than one billion people around the world lacking access to clean water every day, NEOM's solar desalination project will serve as a test case for other water-scarce countries that are struggling to generate environmentally safe and sustainable sources of freshwater.

Gavin van Tonder, head of water at NEOM, said, “By using solar dome desalination techniques, we can build a highly effective, efficient water utility that is both future-oriented and environmentally responsible.”

David Reavley, CEO of Solar Water Plc, commented, “Thousands of desalination plants around the world are heavily reliant on burning fossil fuels to extract water, poisoning our oceans in the process with excess brine.”

Reavley further added that Solar Water Plc’s desalination technology is carbon-neutral and sustainable.

NEOM, the flagship project of Saudi Arabia's post-oil diversification plan, is being built on a 26,500 sq km area in northwestern Saudi Arabia. It offers unique investment opportunities in economic sectors and real-estate development.

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