Joint Centers of Excellence Program
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Sustainable Desert Greening

CHALLENGES

Located in one of the warmest and driest regions in the world, Saudi Arabia’s harsh climate presents unique obstacles to meeting the energy and water needs of the country. We rely on desalination to provide more than 1 billion m3 of water each year, and as we build new infrastructure to meet demand, it can impact the surrounding environment in ways that are complex and often unplanned.

To effectively design sustainable and efficient infrastructure, it is crucial to account for the dynamic interactions between human activity and the surrounding environment. This can be captured by coupling detailed simulations of the Saudi climate with models of physical infrastructure such as water desalination and solar energy generation.

OBJECTIVES

In this project, our goal is to study the interactions between the environment and our built infrastructure. Using a set of models to simulate the dynamics of engineering processes and the surrounding environment, we are studying the effect of climate variation on desalination activity and the impact of brine discharge in the Gulf.

To expand our understanding of the Saudi climate, we are using a combination of field studies and experiments. Our goal is to understand the physical and chemical characteristics of the region’s  and evaluate impact of dust on solar potential and the broader dynamics of our climate.

METHODOLOGY

We use several models to simulate various environmental processes and engineering systems: a robust desalination model evaluates the operational costs of desalination, which is coupled with a sophisticated model that evaluates solar photovoltaic power potential. In addition, a state-of-the-art regional climate model provides detailed projections of environmental conditions and allows us to capture the dynamic interactions between our desalination plants and water resources.

In our lab studies, we examine the chemical composition and physical properties of sand from different locations throughout the country. In our experimental setup, we measure and evaluate the impact of dust on the energy potential of photovoltaic cells under a variety of conditions.