Cranfield University will join 19 research partners spread through 12 countries to develop a first-of-a-kind plant which couples concentrated solar power (CSP) and desalination techniques.

The 10M€ European Union’s Horizon 2020 funded research and innovation programme will last 4 years. Innovative technologies related to both CSP and desalination will be designed to improve the efficiency of existing concepts. Improvements will be made on the independent systems but also on their coupling, taking advantage from the mutual interaction and potential.

Cranfield University is the only UK partner, and they are building on a long-standing reputation in CSP, the grant is worth 799k€ to them over 4 years. 

Chris Sansom, Cranfield’s Professor of CSP and Head of Centre for Renewable Energy Systems, said: “Generating environmentally-safe and sustainable sources of both power and fresh water is a challenge for many countries. The final demonstration system will be a 2 MWel power plant built in Saudi Arabia bringing together two promising technologies associated for the first time to reach unprecedented efficiencies. For Cranfield, it is further recognition of our research capabilities in both CSP and Water Sciences.”  

The DESOLINATION project focuses on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region to test and deploy its technology. A first prototype will be built on the premises of King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

With high solar resources and high demand for desalinated water, it is expected that the prototype will provide low-cost renewable electricity (<90€/MWh) and low-cost fresh water (<0.9€/m3), matching the countries’ requirements for efficient and accessible production of water. 

Carbon dioxide blends will be the core of the innovation in the concentrated solar process, leading to more efficient and less expensive power cycle. With water, forward osmosis will be developed and linked to membrane distillation using the wasted heat from the power cycle to generate freshwater. Finally, a unique combination of the power and water cycles will allow the disruptive coupled system to work at high waste-heat-to-freshwater conversion efficiency.

The final system will also benefit from a substantial reduction of CO2 emissions compared to traditional desalination systems.

Notes for editors


Composed of 19 partners from 9 EU countries and 3 GCC countries, the project includes 13 high-level universities and research centres (Politecnico di Milano, Fraunhofer Institute, Lund University, Cranfield University, Tekniker, Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology, University of Brescia, Technical University of Eindhoven, University of Maribor, Luleå University of Technology, King Saud University, University of Bahrain and German University of Technology) working alongside 3 industrials (Baker Hughes, Cobra and ACSP), and 3 SMEs (Protarget, Temisth and Euroquality).

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.