Strategic Solar Desalination Network


Due to the scarcity of regenerative natural water resources, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become heavily reliant on water desalination for providing fresh water for human use. Water desalination in the kingdom is a dispensable strategic choice to secure potable water, taking into consideration that the kingdom produces more than 5 million cubic meters of water per day, which represents 18% of the world’s potable water. However, the current infrastructure is being significantly strained due to growing Saudi population and the high demand on the infrastructure. This coupled with the ever-increasing energy demand may lead to major problems for the kingdom if not tackled n an optimal manner. The good news is, what KSA lacks in regenerative natural water sources, it makes up with an abundance of viable solar energy, thus setting the stage for a much more sustainable source of energy. In that regard the King Abdullah Initiative for Solar Water Desalination (KAISWD) is a strategic step in the right direction, where the world’s largest water desalination plant powered by solar energy in the city of Khafji is being developed as the first in several phases to enhance the state of the infrastructure.


In this project, we propose the development of the Strategic Solar Desalination Network (SSDN) platform for planning the efficient deployment of a solar-desalination network in the Kingdom. The framework will take into account, key performance attributes, such as sustainability, optimality, strategic security and robustness as well as the ideal phasing and deployment of the network. These attributes will span multiple dimensions, which include Spatial (network topology), Temporal (multiple phases) and Technical (available technologies). This framework will allow strategic decision makers to optimally weigh the outcomes of decisions regarding water and energy across these three dimensions. The main objective is to develop a SSDN platform, to ensure: (1) Cost effective water desalination using solar energy to foster water security and boost the nation economy. (2) Practical application of advanced nanotechnology in generating energy in solar water desalination. (3) Constructing specialized nation capabilities of generating solar energy and water desalination in addition to developing environmentally friendly technological solutions. The project aims to further develop the notion of dual-domain design space for solar desalination projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia into multi-dimensional design problems in which the dimensions can be broadly categorized into technical, economic, environmental and institutional domains.


The SSDN project aims to develop a platform for planning the efficient deployment of a solar-desalination network in the Kingdom. By building simulations that leverage key principles, such as robust, large-scale and multidisciplinary optimization routines, SSDN will ensure the desired characteristics of the proposed plans are achieved across Spatial (network topology), Temporal (multiple phases) and Technical (available technologies) dimensions. In addition, SSDN will also take uncertainty into consideration, which is critical for a secure and sustainable existence for a secure and sustainable existence of the Kingdom in the face of an uncertain future. The Modeling framework is divided into four components: (1) The GIS and Decision Variables, (2) the Investment Model, (3) the Energy Model and (4) the desalination technology library which host a suite of single-plant desalination models. Plant designs will be optimized on a single plant level using a Multi Disciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) while the system (including flow of resources and placement of new facilities) will be optimized on a network level using Multi-Commodity Network Flow (MCNF) analysis.