The Egyptian Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) has announced the launch of a pilot Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project to test units that can simultaneously produce electricity and desalinate water.
The four-year project test project, known as "Multi-Purpose Applications by Thermodynamic Solar", or MATS, has received 22 million Euros (US$28 million) from the European Union under its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and will also involve European universities and companies.
This will be used to build and test MATS units at a site in Burj Al Arab, a desert area near Alexandria. The units can be powered using both solar energy, and renewable energy sources such as biomass and biogas. The test facility will aim to generate one megawatt of electrical power and 250 cubic metres of desalinated water per day.
In a statement, Maged Al-Sherbiny, the ASRT's president, said that MATS units could be used to exploit "concentrated solar energy through small and middle scale facilities, to fulfill local requirements of power, heat, and desalinated water".
"ASRT is the main contract holder for the project, with other partners from Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom," Al-Sherbiny Said, adding that an agreement to host the project has been signed with the City of Scientific Research and Technological Applications (CSRTA), which has allocated the land in Burj Al Arab.
Essam Khamis, head of CSRTA, told SciDev.Net that "this pilot project will also be a research station as it will include a specialised research institute in which Egyptian researchers will be trained".
Al-Sherbiny said the MATS demonstration project would be carried out on an industrial scale, and that "Egypt may be able to export this technology to other African countries in the future". Ultimately the units might also be incorporated into national plans to export electricity from North Africa to Europe.
Al-Sherbiny also noted in his statement that the technology would be tested in an area where solar radiation levels were on a par with Mediterranean countries. The MATS units are based on innovative CSP technology developed in Italy.
Khaled M. Fekry, head of research and development at Egypt's National Renewable Energy Authority said one of the biggest benefits of MATS technology is its relative low cost and high efficiency.