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Thinking Strategy: Solving Two of Jordan’s Major Problems with One Affordable Solution January 3, 2010

Posted by aboosh in Jordan, Renewable Energy.
Tags: , , , ,

This is my very first blog post. It will focus on an important issue that has been captivating me for quite sometime: Jordan’s survivability in a world of ever-shrinking water and energy resources.

Jordan faces two major crisis that must be firmly addressed within the next 5 years. This issue of energy, and the issue of water shortage.  Without tackling these two issues head on with the highest political and economical resolve, Jordan’s sovereignty will be in jeopardy.

First, we have heard of rumors of a Jordanian nuclear power plant, and talks of buying a French reactor.  I am pretty sure it is just a fantasy. I believe it was just a temporary playing card in the hand of larger powers and that is outside scope of this post.  My basic understanding of the energy dynamics in the world is as follows: Out with fossils, mediate with nuclear, and longevity is to renewable energy.

Let’s face it, at this time Jordan has no intentions of securing a nuclear power plant, we also do not have the capabilities to buy/run/maintain it. Plus, having a nuclear plant will mean we are putting Jordan’s future in the hands of the IAEA and the sorts. So, scrub that notion all together. I just had to bring it up to steer into my goal: Out with Nuclear Jordan, in with Solar Jordan.

With that kept in mind, we move to the second issue: water shortage. This is an issue that we all heard about, and my generation practically grew up with this problem. I cannot emphasize the importance of having running clean water for the health, economy, agriculture and geopolitical stability for any country. Jordan has been facing a compounding drought over the last two decades, and climate change is predicted to have a dire effect on the annual rain fall in the region.

Disi water reservoir have been finally tapped into with a $600M project to bring drinkable water to an ever-growing and ever thirsty Amman & the northern cities of Jordan. However, this project has been tainted with controversy and ill-management.  And a recent publication of a scientific paper claiming a 2000% elevation above the internationally acceptable limits of carcinogenic radiating Radium in the Disi water adds another blow to the efforts to quench the thirst of the country  (P.S. I am still trying to get a copy of the mentioned paper, not just its abstract. I will try to share an analysis of their methods at a later date based on the merits of the study, not following the crowd of conspiracy theorists who want to judge the paper based on the nationality if its authors or its publication date).

That being said, some might be lead to believe that these challenges are insurmountable or are out of our control. However, a simple, realistic, affordable, and proven design can be implemented to tackle both of these issues at once. YES, BOTH!

This proposal is simple and straight forward:

solar mirrors –> boil Aqaba sea water –> generate power using steam –> condense steam –> collect drinking water.

Yup, that is it!

Result? Cheap Electricity AND Drinkable Water.

An illustration will make it even clearer!

Schematic of a proposed solar energy harvesting & water desalination plant near Aqaba, Jordan

Parabolic solar mirrors can be used to focus the sun’s light  (thermal energy) to central pipe that holds hydraulic oil. A unidirectional hydraulic pump assures that the heated oil is transfered in one direction towards the heat exchange chambers. The heat exchange chambers are full of water that boils into steam.  The steam can be increased in pressure and speed using specific stages. This compressed steam is then used to spin power-generating turbines. Then the resulting steam can be used directly, or can be decoupled at another stage, where condensation of the steam occurs, and desalinated water is produced.

A similar solar mirror plant is present in the Mojave Desert in California, and can generate up to 30MW of electricity (the mentioned plant is for power generation, not water desalination). The total capacity of Hussain Thermal Power Plant in Zarqa is 382MW. Difference? One is burning ever-expensive fuel, the other is using free renewable source! The difference in the rating of the two plants can be overcome by building multiple solar power plants to conjugate, and ultimately replace, the existing power plants.

I do not, and cannot, claim that I came up with this design. It is a well-known set up used in many of the developed countries, and nearby in the Gulf states. However, in the Gulf, oil/gas is burned to desalinate the water. What I want is to replace the fossil fuel as an energy source with renewable abundant solar energy.

The location of this plant can ideally be in Aqaba, where sea water is easily transportable. However, solar energy plants for electricity generation only (no water desalination section) can be moved up north near Amman & Zarqa, where electricity is needed most, and where power lines are close by, easing the process of hooking up the plants to the grid.

I do not want to be that one other person who is riding the renewable energy bandwagon. As I have said earlier, this issue has been irking me for the longest time and it really amazes/shocks/confuses me that none of the successive Jordanian governments over the last 10 years have proposed or even considered this solution! I think it is about time to stop following the fads that others are running after & focus on what we need. Jordan is our land, and its survivability and prosperity should be the utmost goal of its own citizens, not wait for others to give us a hand! With giving, there is ALWAYS taking. And I do not want anyone to take what we all own.