Twenty-two solar desalination plants completed, agency says

The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi has announced the completion of 22 solar desalination plants that will provide water for the endangered Arabian Oryx in the Western Region.

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ABU DHABI // The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi today announced the completion of 22, small-scale solar desalination plants.

The effort is part of a plan to construct a total of 30 such systems in remote parts of the country.

The systems use photovoltaic panels, which can transform sunlight into energy. The energy provides power for a pump that brings groundwater to the surface.

The groundwater, which is too salty for consumption, is then pumped under pressure through a membrane, which removes the salt. This process, which is called reverse osmosis, is commonly used in desalination plants.

Each of the solar desalination plants - some 300 metres in size - produces about 6,600 gallons of water per day. Razan Al Mubarak, the secretary general of the environmental agency, said: "The use of renewable sources of energy is an essential part of the future of desalination in this region."

"This project is in line with EAD's strategy to pursue the latest innovation in the field of water production and to adopt the best economic and environmental methods in order to meet the rising demand for water and therefore ensure water security in the future," she said.

Under the process, once the groundwater is purified, it is pumped into a pond.

The waste from the desalination process, comprising hyper-saline brine, is pumped into a separate evaporation pond.

The solar desalination systems are installed in a remote area in the Western Region, where the agency has been releasing the Arabian Oryx, an antelope species that has been extinct in the wild since 1972.

Since then, the species has been bred in captivity, and a process of reintroducing it into semi-wild areas has been taking place since 2007.

The water from the solar desalination plant is used to create watering holes for the newly-introduced oryx, as well as to irrigate shrubs and plants that have been cultivated to provide food and shelter for the animals.