Sustainable Solar Desalination Network

Water and energy are crucial for progress and security. With a growing population in a harsh desert climate, Saudi Arabia faces a critical water scarcity challenge. However, the Kingdom has an abundant energy supply – both renewable and non-renewable. To capitalize on this crucial water-energy nexus, the King Abdullah Initiative for Solar Water Desalination was launched in 2010. Saudi Arabia currently produces more than four million cubic meters of desalinated water a day, accounting for over 18% of global production. This staggering amount represented 58% of municipal water demand in 2013, consumed roughly 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, and this demand is growing. This energy requirement has significant economic and environmental impacts, calling for a new energy source to fuel the desalination process. Receiving about 2,200 kWh/m2 of solar irradiation a year, Saudi Arabia has enormous potential for solar power, which can be utilized for desalination. The source is renewable, allowing for sustainable water security, and recapturing the opportunity cost of the oil spent on conventional desalination methods. The Sustainable Strategic Desalination Network (SSDN) project aims to analytically and extensively study the technological and economic feasibility of such a solution. The outcome is a platform for planning a sustainable desalination network in the Kingdom. The framework considers different performance indicators, such as comprehensive sustainability, optimality, strategic reliability and robustness, and network phasing and deployment. SSDN models, simulates, and optimizes the energy and desalination systems at both the micro (single-plant) and macro (network) levels. The outcome of this modeling work is an accessible tool that brings together multiple stakeholders to collaborate in building and maintaining a sustainable desalination network for the Kingdom.

Abdulelah Habib