Ras Al Khaimah plans to build the world’s largest solar-powered seawater desalination plant to put an end to water subsidies in the emirate.
It is the brainchild of Utico Middle East, the GCC’s largest private full service utility and solutions provider and once live in 2015, the plant will generate 22 million gallons of potable water a day and provide 20 megawatts (MW) of solar power.
The current record holder is in Saudi Arabia, where the Al Khafji plant aims to generate 10 million gallons of water a day and 10MW of power once it is completed in 2015.
“The GCC has an abundance of sunshine throughout the year and our aim will be to harness this free energy and channel it to UAE residents at extremely low cost,” said Richard Menezes, the executive vice chairman at Utico Middle East. “We believe that this will be the least costly solution for water. The average price per cubic metre of water at the moment is US$1.8. We can retail at $0.75 per cubic metre of water which cuts off subsidies completely.”
Earlier this month, Utico released the pre-qualification tender inviting bids for the independent water plant, which will be co-developed by Utico and the winning bidder.
Utico is currently building a coal power plant in RAK worth $408 million. The company is working with Shanghai Electric to generate 270MW of clean coal power once the project is completed in 2015.
“The new solar-powered desalination plant will complement the clean coal power plant project we announced last year,” Mr Menezes said. “The two plants will together generate power and water while reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1 million tonnes CO2 per year. This is in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who has been the driving force behind environment-friendly ventures such as Masdar.”
In 2011, the UAE desalinated 1.7 billion cubic metres of seawater, equivalent to 700,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The demand for power and water in the Emirates is growing at a rate of 10 per cent per year.
Jebel Ali’s Dh10 billion M Station operated by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is the country’s largest desalination plant. It produces 530 million litres of water a day in the 2060MW gas-fired facility.