Advanced Water Technologies (AWT), the commercial vehicle of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City of Science & Technology (KACST), is to develop the world’s first large-scale solar desalination plant with Spain’s Abengoa.

The 60,000 cubic-metre-a-day (cm/d) plant will supply drinking water to the city of Al-Khafji in northeast Saudi Arabia.

The project incorporates a solar photovoltaic plant, which will generate the power required by the energy intensive desalination process, reducing operational costs.

AWT, owned by Saudi public technology investor Taqnia, has recently been formed to study affordable, sustainable water solutions. It will also focus on desalination, water reuse and water management.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer of desalinated water, consuming 1.26 billion cubic metres a year from the Saline Water Conversion Company’s 30 plants due to high demand and water scarcity.

Saudi Arabia is studying ways to reduce rapidly rising electricity consumption, which drives the use of a third of oil production on the domestic market.

The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy announced ambitious plans for renewable energy in 2013. However, only one utility scale project has gone ahead; Duba Integrated Solar Combined Cycle Power Plant, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar is beginning four 18-month pilot studies with Abengoa, France’s Degremont and Veolia, and US start-up Trevsi Systems. They will use the results to select a technology for a utility-scale solar reverse osmosis plant.