Sun allows Saudi Arabia to get drinking water from sea

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by Carlo Sala

Saudi Arabia will draw drinking water from the sea through three desalination plants powered by solar energy. The head of the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) - that with a global market share of 18% is the world's largest producer of desalinated water - Abdul Rahman Al-Ibrahim announced last October that the three plants will be built in Haqel , Dhuba and Farasan.
Desalination plants of various types are already active in Arabia - the Kingdom of Saud is in fact the country that most of the world makes use of desalination, from which derives 70% of drinking water - and three new plants will be added to those ones, quite similar, already active in Al-Khafji and Jubail. Another plant of the same kind under construction in Ras Al-Khair on the Persian Gulf will be ready - Al-Ibrahim said - in a couple of years.
The idea of ​​using the sun has been presented as a further step to reduce dependence on Arab oil: only apparently surprising, the statement suggests that Riyadh aims to avoid subtract for internal use what can be sold in dollars on international markets. Aimed at securing 41,000 MW within two decades from the other source which has in abundance as well as underground reservoirs - the sun - Saudi wants to get to save, for 2032, 523,000 barrels of oil per day now just used to acquire water and current. This is a task that requires investments of 100 billion dollars, but that is quite promising. The southern half of Arabia is one of the most intensely area irradiated by the sun (up to 10 kW * h/m2/day) and mountains (up to 3000 meters high) in the south-west make possible to capture the most intense radiation (there is less atmosphere to cross and the air is thinner). Last but not least, through the Desertec project, Saudi Arabia could supply Europe not only oil but also electricity from the sun.
The SWCC already provides 9% of electricity production in the country and provides 41% desalinated water consumed by the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). And the ninth five-year plan of development (2010-2014) expected to double the production capacity of desalination plants, from 1.05 billion to 2.07 billion cubic meters per year.

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