[CAIRO] The first wind power plant on the Arabian Peninsula was inaugurated last week in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The US$2.5 million power plant, located on Sir Bani Yas Island off Abu Dhabi, will generate 850 kilowatts of electricity to power a seawater desalination operation.
Desalination of seawater to produce drinking water is energy intensive and often not a viable solution for remote arid regions where electricity is in short supply. If shown to be cost-effective, wind-powered desalination could be introduced elsewhere in the Middle East.
"Wind powered desalination plants able to produce up to 2,000 cubic metres of drinking water daily are technically feasible," says Magdy El-Allawy, general manager of Allawy-Beratende Ingenieure, a German engineering company that constructs conventionally powered seawater desalination plants in the Middle East.
"For remote arid areas, they can offer an economically viable alternative to other power and desalination options, such as those using fossil fuels," El-Allawy told SciDev.Net.
Aly Karameldin, who researches desalination using nuclear power at the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, says wind powered desalination is an attractive and sustainable approach to water shortages in arid regions but adds there is plenty of scope for improvement.
"The main drawback for wind driven units is variable wind speed," Karameldin told SciDev.Net. "The design of rotors must ensure high energy capture and low cost as well as reliability under severe operational conditions, such as in complex terrains with high wind speeds."
The UAE wind power plant was designed and constructed by a consortium including the German overseas aid agency, GTZ, and Dornier Consulting.