Renewable Energy Desalination Pilot Programme


In 2013, Masdar launched a renewable energy desalination pilot programme to research and develop energy-efficient, cost-competitive desalination technologies that are suitable to be powered by renewable energy.

The long-term goal is to implement renewable energy-powered desalination plants in the United Arab Emirates, as well as the wider MENA region and to have a commercial scale facility operating by 2020.

Through a competitive tender, four commercial partners – Abengoa, Suez Environnement, Sidem/ Veolia and Trevi Systems – were selected to support the development of the programme. 

They each developed, and are currently operating, a next-generation pilot seawater desalination plant. The four plants are testing a range of innovative approaches in boosting operational efficiency. A fifth pilot was installed in October 2016 by Mascara NT, a unique off-grid solar powered solution without batteries, ideally suited for remotelocations.

The programme consists of two stages:

• Pilot phase (2013 to 2017): Based in Ghantoot, Abu Dhabi, the commercial partners will construct four small-scale desalination pilot plants. They will operate continuously for at least 18 months. The performance of the plants will be assessed and rigorously monitored and tested.

• Implementation & development (after 2017): Scaling-up of technologies that meet predefined criteria as commercially viable, large-scale seawater desalination plants. The plants will be entirely powered by renewables. 

Concurrently with the pilot projects in Ghantoot, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is collaborating to support the programme through series of research projects including:

  • A study and evaluation of membrane scaling and fouling in membrane distillation modules to mitigate problems and develop appropriate cleaning protocols
  • Developing an optimised design of a fullscale solar energy powered seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant using the most practical and economical PV and solar thermal energy technologies
  • Capacitive de-ionization for treatment of permeates from the first-pass Reverse Osmosis to demonstrate the cost and energy savings potential in SWRO

Quick Facts

  • Number of pilot plants: 4 leading commercial partners to develop pilot plants
  • Water production: 1,500 cubic metres daily
  • Demonstration stage: April 2014-July 2016