NEOM inks deal with UK’s Solar Water to construct first desalination plant with ‘solar dome’
Saudi Arabia’s NEOM giga-project has signed an agreement with UK-based Solar Water to build the first ever ‘solar dome’ desalination plant, which will adopt solar technology to produce low-cost, environmentally friendly water in NEOM.
At an estimated $0.34 cu. m, the cost of producing water via this technology will be significantly lower than desalination plants using the reverse osmosis method.
The technology will also significantly reduce the impact on the environment by producing more concentrated brine, a potentially harmful by-product of the water extraction process, according to a statement from NEOM.
Solar Water’s technology was developed at UK’s Cranfield University and represents the first case usage of large-scale CSP (concentrated solar power) technology in seawater desalination. During this process, seawater is pumped into a hydrological ‘solar dome’ made from glass and steel, before it is superheated, evaporated and precipitated as fresh water.
Commenting on the project, HE 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.”
Meanwhile, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM, added that easy access to abundant seawater and renewable energy sources makes NEOM perfectly placed to produce low cost, sustainable fresh water through solar desalination.
“This type of technology is a powerful reminder of our commitment to supporting innovation, championing environmental conservation and delivering exceptional liveability. Working together with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture we can expand the implementation of this technology beyond NEOM.”
Additionally, the ‘solar dome’ desalination process can also operate at night due to the stored solar energy generated throughout the day, the statement added.
Gavin von Tonder, head of Water at NEOM, commented that using the ‘solar dome’ technology, a highly efficient, effective water utility can be built, that is both future oriented and environmentally responsible.