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Saudi Arabia Pushes to Use Solar Power for Desalination Plants

With photovoltaic costs dropping, oil states turn to solar power to desalinate their water

3 min read
Photo: Chip Hires/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Drink Up: A desalination plant in Al Khafji, Saudi Arabia, is powered by fossil fuels. A new, solar-powered desalination plant is now being built in the city.
Photo: Chip Hires/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

It seems like a natural fit for desert dwellers: Use the sun to scrub salt from groundwater or seawater and make it suitable to drink.

Armed with oil money, the Saudi government’s Saline Water Conversion Corp. (SWCC) has already built the world’s most extensive network of desalination plants. However, like many facilities in Saudi Arabia, those plants are powered mostly by fossil fuels.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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