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Dubai plans desert city’s first solar-powered desalination plant

The emirate is seeking to diversify away from burning fossil fuels to increase its water supply.

Dubai will seek partners this year to build its first solar-powered desalination plant as the emirate tries to diversify away from burning fossil fuels to increase its water supply, the head of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority said in an interview.

The plant, using reverse osmosis technology, will have capacity to produce 120 million gallons a day of drinkable water by 2024, Chief Executive Officer Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer said in Dubai. DEWA is also developing a reservoir to hold as much as 6 billion gallons of water reserves, and the utility currently stores about 700 million gallons, Al Tayer said at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Key insights

Dubai, which is building facilities to generate 6 000 Megawatts of power, is diversifying away from relying mostly on natural gas to produce electricity by adding solar- and coal-fired plants. Persian Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates, in which Dubai is the biggest city, must desalinate seawater to supply drinking water to their burgeoning populations. Regional utilities have traditionally linked gas-fired power stations to large desalination plants along coastlines. Utilities are seeking new methods for desalination as they try to reduce power use and improve efficiency.

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The solar facility will be able to store energy that it produces, allowing the desalination plant to operate at night. DEWA’s projects are mostly partnerships with private companies, which have contributed 40 billion dirhams in financing. The utility’s generating capacity is 10 927 MW, with desalination capacity of 470 million imperial gallons a day. 

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