The NYT has an article on solar powered desalination in Saudi Arabia, somewhat surprisingly using concentrating solar PV (CPV) rather than solar thermal energy - I.B.M. and Saudi Researchers Collaborate on Solar-Powered Desalination Technology.
I.B.M. and a Saudi Arabian research institute are collaborating to develop a desalination plant powered by a new type of solar technology. The goal is to build a desalination project in the Saudi city of Al Khafji capable of producing 7.9 million gallons of water a day that would supply 100,000 people.
Desalination is an energy-intensive process, which has limited the deployment of such plants outside desert regions like the Middle East. But I.B.M. and the Saudi research institute, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, plan to dramatically reduce the electricity costs by building a 10-megawatt solar farm that deploys ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic arrays.
The technology will concentrate the sun 1,500 times on a solar cell to boost efficiency. That's about three times the solar concentration of most concentrating photovoltaic panels currently in operation.
Sharon Nunes, vice president of I.B.M.'s Big Green Innovations division, said in an interview Tuesday that the key to increasing the solar panels' efficiency was a device called a liquid metal thermal interface. A legacy of Big Blue's mainframe computer work, the liquid metal thermal interface acts as a heat sink to cool the extreme temperatures generated by concentrating photovoltaic systems.
"The solar component is something we've been implementing and that we have done testing on for the past two years," Ms. Nunes said. "We're quite confident with the results.
I.B.M. has not yet revealed the efficiency of such a solar system at
converting sunlight into electricity. But Jenny Hunter, a company
spokeswoman, said it was expected to be a significant increase over
current concentrating photovoltaic technology.
I.B.M. has had discussions with solar developers about using the
technology, Ms. Nunes said.
The researchers are still exploring options to run the plant when the sun is not shining, looking at technologies to store solar electricity as well conventional power sources. To further cut energy costs, the company and Saudi researchers said they had developed a nanomembrane that desalinates water and removes toxins while using less