Solar-natural gas mix best for desalination: Official

April 02, 2012 - 10:49:11 pm


Dr Mohamed Darwish addressing the Third Annual Qatar Alternative Energy Investors Summit in Doha yesterday. Abdul Basit

by Francesca Astorri

DOHA: The Third Annual Qatar Alternative Energy Investors Summit started with an opening session on one of the most interesting and discussed issues: the use of solar energy to power desalination plants.

The 2-day Summit organised by the French business information company Naseba in partnership with the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), opened yesterday at the Grand Hyatt getting together international clean energy industry leaders, starting the discussion from the great interest that the GCC has showed in applying solar energy to generate electric power and desalinated seawater.

The huge potentials of the area are evident thanks to the great sun light and the hydrocarbon resources, but still no large solar operated cogeneration power-desalting plants have been built or planned in the GCC.

According to Dr. Mohamed Darwish, Principle Investigator for Solar Desalination at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), the most efficient energy mix for desalination process is the one that combines natural gas and solar energy. “Solar energy by itself is still too expensive, but if combined with natural gas we have the most efficient energy mix because natural gas makes solar energy much cheaper, taking down the costs of around 50 percent,” Darwish told The Peninsula.

“We all know that solar energy is clean, but what it’s now more evident is that solar energy is profitable: it reduces greenhouse gases’ emission with a consequent benefit for the company itself in terms of external costs related to pollution that the company doesn’t have to pay anymore.”

As explained by Michael Katz, Managing Director of Greener Capital, solar energy represents a broad industry with many sectors, from transportation, waste management, power generation, infrastructure….basically a huge business on different fronts that requires a manager specialisation and a creative financial vehicle innovation.   

Solar energy requires a big starting up investment, but then it comes a long period in which the company has very low maintenance costs to face. Because of this, when a country decides to invest in solar energy, the government has to give long term contracts, signing for a 20-year agreement, in order to make the investment appealing for a company that knows that it will have the time to profit and get back the capital that it’s investing today.  

“Besides giving long term contracts, a country starting up with solar energy has also to change its laws in order to facilitate the access to the grid” Hassan Harajli, Project Manager at Energy and Environment Programme at United Nations Development Programme – CEDRO, Lebanon, told The Peninsula. Harajli is between the keynote speakers today that will illustrate the resource availability of renewable energy and the legislative framework that enables investments in the sector. The Summit will come to an end today with a final panel discussion with an inspiring title “GCC countries and solar power: where do we stand and where do we want to be in the coming years?”.

The Peninsula