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Saudi Arabia Building ‘Solar Dome’ Desalination Plant in Neom

The solar dome plant will process drinking water more cheaply than conventional plants, and significantly lower than desalination plants that use reverse osmosis methods; Given its features, advantages and benefits, the first-of-its-kind technology could become a source of fresh water from the sea for a city like Karachi which saddles the Arabian Sea and has perennial water crisis.

SoDATA (South Data) — Construction will begin in February and be completed this year on Saudi Arabia’s new solar technology-based seawater desalination plant at Neom, a $500bn mega-city that is being developed along the country’s northern Red Sea coast.

The world’s first “solar dome” desalination plant will produce no carbon emissions and create less brine than facilities using conventional reverse osmosis technology.

The process helps prevent any damage to marine life as no brine is discharged into the sea and produces drinking water more cheaply than conventional plants, at 34 cents per cubic meter, and significantly lower than desalination plants that use reverse osmosis methods, reports Construction Week online.

Once completed and operational by the end of the year, this first-of-its-kind technology is likely to shape the future of water desalination in the kingdom, the Middle East region and South Asian countries saddled along the coastline, and addresses a key issue – access to fresh water.

Given its features, advantages and benefits, the first-of-its-kind technology could become a source of freash water from the sea for a city like Karachi which saddles the Arabian Sea and has perennial water crisis.

The approach, which was developed at the UK’s Cranfield University and is being implemented by Solar Water UK, represents the first large-scale use of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology in seawater desalination.

Unlike reverse osmosis, in which seawater passes through plastic membranes that remove the salt, Neom will pump ocean water into the dome-like structure of glass and steel.

The process sees seawater pumped into the hydrological “solar dome” made from glass and steel, before it is superheated, evaporated, and precipitated as fresh water.

The plant can also operate at night due to the stored solar energy generated throughout the day.

Neom developer signed an agreement with the UK-based Solar Water Plc to build the plant. The Red Sea new city gigaproject is Saudi Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund-backed (PIF) flagship.

It includes resorts, hi-tech manufacturing, and automation. It is a showpiece of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s goal of curtailing the conservative kingdom’s dependence on crude oil by diversifying the economy.

SoDATA (South Data) is a unit of Irshad Salim