Faced with water stress in Egypt, the authorities are betting on seawater desalination to meet the needs of the new towns being built in the north-west of the country. The seawater will be treated using thermodynamic solar energy.
How can seawater desalination be carried out, taking into account its characteristics, particularly in terms of energy? The Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) is opting for desalination using thermodynamic solar energy. The state-owned company has just launched the second phase of a call for tenders for the construction of five concentrated solar power (CSP) plants as part of a public-private partnership (PPP).
Following pre-qualification, several companies have been selected. They include Aqualia, a supplier of water treatment solutions based in Madrid, Spain, the Norwegian independent power producer (IPP) Scatec, the French energy company Engie, the Emirati company Amea Power and the Japanese company Toyota Tsusho, which is stepping up its investments in the energy sector in Africa. EEHC is targeting a combined capacity of 250 MW for an investment of $270 million.
Improving the energy efficiency of desalination
The power stations connected to Egypt’s national grid are expected to produce clean electricity for 25 years to power desalination plants with a combined capacity of 400,000 m3 per day. With this initiative, Egypt is set to take its first steps in the production of solar energy from concentrated solar power plants.
Although one of the best performers in terms of renewable energy in Africa, Egypt has so far focused on photovoltaic solar energy and onshore wind power. Yet the North African country has the resources needed to set up thermodynamic solar power plants. Compared with photovoltaic solar power plants, CSPs cost slightly more to install, but are more efficient because they can supply electricity after sunset.
Egypt began exploring CSPs a few years ago, setting up a partnership in 2019 with Smart Engineering Solutions, a company based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Cairo was counting on an initial investment of $1.2 billion for five and the construction of a factory to locate the manufacture of the components for these power plants. Since then, not a single plant has been commissioned. In the meantime, other players have shown an interest in the Egyptian thermodynamic solar energy market. This is the case of the Swedish company Absolicon Solar Concentrator, which will be commissioning a solar collector production line by 2024 for the Swiss company Creative Power Solutions (CPS).