United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates

UAE desalination cheaper with wind

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: A recent study led by the Masdar Institute indicated using wind energy rather than fossil fuel to power a desalination plant could cut the cost of producing fresh water in the country.

A desalination plant in United Arab Emirates owned by energy firm Taqa Global
A desalination plant in United Arab Emirates owned by energy firm Taqa Global

The study was carried out in partnership with German firm Synlift Industrial Products and Canada's INRS University.

It found the levelised cost of water using wind-powered reverse osmosis (RO) would come in at $1.57-2.11 per 1,000 litres.

This compares with the current cost of $2.80 per 1,000 litres using thermal desalination powered by fossil fuel.

"This preliminary analysis shows that wind-driven variable reverse osmosis may be an economic alternative to the current mode of water production in the UAE via thermal desalination," the report concluded.

Given that wind speeds in the UAE generally average under 7m/s, the team designed a model coupling Class III wind turbines of 1.6-3MW to a RO desalination plant capable of varying its production rate according to the power generated.

The system assumed grid connection to ensure continuous operation if wind speeds fell below a certain threshold.

The fresh water produced would feed into a "strategic aquifer storage and recovery" system designed for use during emergencies.

Because the system does not require a steady water supply, the rate of production can vary, avoiding the need for costly power storage.

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