Saudi Arabia to Replace Oil with Sun Power for Desalination Plants

saudi arabia solar power desalination plant Predicting peak oil? Saudi water desalination plants like this one to be powered by the sun.

You would imagine that a desert country like Saudi Arabia would have to rely a lot on desalination for a good part of the fresh water it uses. For example, a previous Green Prophet article told about the Kingdom building what they say is the world’s largest desalination plant  in the Al Jubail Industrial Zone on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

Up to now, the more than 28 desalination plants scattered around the Kingdom have had to rely of fossil fuel, most notably fuel oil, to provide to power to run the equipment used to extract salt and other minerals from sea water.

Much of this may be changing, however, as Saudi Arabia is now interested in using solar energy to provide the power needed, instead of oil. According to an article on the UAE Top News media site, the Kingdom is now planning to build solar energy based desalination plants in order to save on energy costs, as well as be in tune with new environmental polices. This might be to secure membership in the International Renewable Energy Agency, otherwise known as IRENA.  

Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf said “desalination is our strategic choice to supply an adequate supply of drinking water to people across the Kingdom.”

He added that by using solar energy instead of oil, it will focus more on using renewable energy and even become an exporter of this clean form of energy as it has been doing with oil. A tremendous amount of oil is currently being used to provide power for the country’s desalination plants; around 1.5 million barrels per day. This has caused the price of desalinated water to rise as oil prices have risen.

The use of solar energy to power desalination plants is just one of several projects in  the Kingdom that are more environmentally friendly. The Kingdom is also embarking of projects to improve its inland transport systems including building a high speed train network to carry pilgrims to and from the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.

The new rail network, when completed, will be able to large numbers of people, and help to eliminate many of the thousands of buses which are currently used.

In addition to desalination, solar energy will also be supplying energy to a country which has been historically known as being a world supplier of oil, especially to countries like the US. Solar energy will eventually enable to Saudis to not only have a renewable energy source to supply their own energy needs but will significantly reduce the cost of fresh water, as well as being able to export renewable energy, as well as oil.

Photo via Arab News

More on Saudi desalination and environmental awareness:
Saudi Arabia Builds World’s Largest Desalination Plant

Saudia Arabia to Become Member of International Renewable Energy Agency.

Greening the Hajj and Medinah for the Muslim World

29 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia to Replace Oil with Sun Power for Desalination Plants

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  21. H. Müller-Holst

    In this context, nobody seriously talks about Photovoltaic. It is completely agreed that the efficieny of this technology is too low and its costly investment is too high to ever give a significant share of energy supply on large scale- be it for desalination or power supply. Upcoming technologies are solar thermal power plants, driven by solar towers with Heliostats or large CSP fields. By the concentration of sunlight, effiiency and economic viability will be ensured. Especially for the coupling with thermal desalination plants – which are the majour part of desalination in this country – the efficient operation of a solar powered electricity and desalination system are ensured. The desalination and power supply of the future on large scale is solar thermal !

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  23. H. Müller-Holst

    In this context, nobody seriously talks about Photovoltaic. It is completely agreed that the efficieny of this technology is too low and its costly investment is too high to ever give a significant share of energy supply on large scale- be it for desalination or power supply. Upcoming technologies are solar thermal power plants, driven by solar towers with Heliostats or large CSP fields. By the concentration of sunlight, effiiency and economic viability will be ensured. Especially for the coupling with thermal desalination plants – which are the majour part of desalination in this country – the efficient operation of a solar powered electricity and desalination system are ensured. The desalination and power supply of the future on large scale is solar thermal !

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  24. Dave Kimble

    Switching to solar photovoltaic power would only work if the Saudis import the panels, so that someone else pays the carbon emissions cost of making the PV panels. A panel producing 1 KW.h/day takes approximately 3,000 KW.h to make, and so energy on that scale is enormously energy-expensive to set up. When a proper world-wide carbon trading system is in place, solar panels will be too expensive to ever make a significant proportion of the total energy mix.

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