Access to clean, potable water has always been a problem in countries like Saudi Arabia. The climate and surrounding desert make it nearly impossible to locate overland sources of freshwater. The Gulf of Arabia’s seawater would provide a ready supply, but the desalination process would be both costly and consume large volumes of energy, making it untenable. British startup Solar Water believes it has a solution. By employing a dome that harnesses solar power to perform desalination, it thinks it has an energy-efficient method of providing drinking water to Saudi Arabia. The NEOM gigaproject will be the first location in the world where this technology is being tried.
The Power of the Sun
The sun-based solution that Solar Water provides is far more cost-effective than traditional reverse-osmosis techniques, weighing in at $0.34 per cubic meter of water generated. Stored solar energy allows the plant to operate throughout the night. Seawater is piped into the solar done, which is then heated using solar panels to evaporate the water. The resulting water vapor is condensed as pure, drinkable water and stored for human consumption. Not only is the process cost-effective, but it’s also environmentally safe. Unlike traditional desalination plants, no brine will be discharged back into the sea.
A Flagship Project
NEOM is the flagship project for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). If the system is successful, it might be useful in other locales. Saudi Arabia isn’t the only place in the world that suffers from acute water shortages that curtail economic growth. With a cost-effective and environmentally sensitive solution like the solar dome, other countries may be more inclined to see desalination as a viable methodology for producing water for consumption and irrigation. The adoption of this solution showcases NEOM’s dedication to Saudi Arabia’s goals for sustainability in development.