Saudi Arabia is planning to build the country's first solar-powered water desalination plant. This is the first part of a three-stage program to ensure energy security and provide drinking water to Saudis.

The first stage involves construction of a desalination plant capable of producing 30,000cum of water per day, and a reverse osmosis (RO) plant based on indigenous technology. The solar plant associated with the desalination unit will generate about 10MW of power.

The residents of Al-Khafji City, numbering about 100,000, will benefit from this phase, which was initiated at the beginning of 2010. The execution of this stage is expected to continue for three years. The first stage will serve as a basis for the second, which involves construction of a 300,000-cum-per-day desalination plant, which is expected to span three years. The plant site is yet to be decided.

The third stage involves development of several desalination units across the country, based on the techniques of the first two stages. The projects will be executed by an industrial consortium, under the purview of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Saudi Arabia, and will be based on the Industrial National Strategy guidelines.

The initiative aims at reducing the cost of desalination to less than 40 US cents per cum as compared to current costs of 70 cents to USD 1.50 per cum.