he Kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), has already unveiled his plans to build a mega city costing more than $500 billion in the country’s north-west. Official plans have outlined a vast metropolis around 33 times larger than New York City and one which will feature a 26,500km2 business zone called NEOM – an amalgam of  neo and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for future, reports MEP.

Saudi Arabia is powering itself for the future

Neom’s strategic location, situated on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, will enable it to strengthen economic ties with countries in both the Middle East and Africa. Current timetables suggest that NEOM could even be on its way to completion by 2030. Key areas of city infrastructure will include food processing, entertainment, transport, power generation, water & sewage reprocessing, manufacturing and biotechnology sectors.The Crown Prince also has a vision of the new city hosting top-of-the-lineartificial intelligence (AI) such as drones, nanobiology labs and renewable energy resources, such as solar panels. Construction of the mega city runs parallel with MBS’National Transformation Programme (NTP, also known as Vision 2030), which he announced in 2016.

NEOM Mega-City

NEOM’s has ajoint role as a flagship for advanced technology in the Gulf and serving as the new business and technological hub for the world. By 2030, wealthy Saudis should be able to visit the Red Sea Coast Resorts (RSCR), blueprinted for construction just south of NEOM. Luxury hotels will be erected on this strip,stretching across 50 islands and 33,998km2. NEOM is likely to develop along the lines of Masdar, a planned city project in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Designed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners, Masdar city relies on solar energy and other renewable energy sources. The city itself is described as ‘a sustainable mixed-use development designed to be very friendly to pedestrians and cyclists’. Masdar City features terracotta walls decorated with arabesque patterns. The temperature in the streets is generally 15 to 20 °C (27to 36 °F) cooler than the surrounding desert. The temperature difference is due to Masdar’s unique construction. A 45-metre-high (148 ft) wind tower modelled on traditional Arab designs sucks air from above and pushes a cooling breeze through Masdar’s streets.

The site is raised above the surrounding land to create as light cooling effect. Buildings are clustered close together to create streets and walkways shielded from the sun. The team from Foster and Partners began its work by touring ancient cities such as Cairo and Muscat to see how they kept cool.  Foster found that these cities coped with hot desert temperatures through shorter, narrower streets usually no longer than 70 metres (230 ft). The buildings at the end of these streets create just enough wind turbulence to push air upwards, creating a flushing effect which cools the street. These are valuable discoveries which Neom’s city planners cannot afford to ignore in their construction plans.

By 2035 it is estimated that Neom should be able to generate around two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power plants, wind turbine farms and solar plants. The Kingdom currently includes nuclear power asa zero emissions resource which counts toward Saudi Arabia’’s 2040 emissions reduction goals. District cooling systems will deliver chilled water to buildings like homes, shopping centres, offices and factories needing cooling.

NEOM Mega-City

Tabreed currently delivers over 1 million refrigeration tons of cooling, across 72 plants located throughout the UAE region, cooling iconic infrastructure projects such as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Clevel and Clinic, Ferrari World, Yas Mall, Aldar HQ and Etihad Towers. Other location benefitting from district cooling include the Marina Mall, World Trade Centre in Abu Dhabi featuring the Burj MohammedBin Rashid, Dubai Metro, Dubai Parks & Resorts, and the Jabal Omar Development in the Holy City of Mecca, alongside other hotels, hospitals, & residential areas.

In January 2006, PAL technology emerged as one of the emerging project management companies in UAE involved in the diversified business of desalination, sewage treatment and district cooling system. More than 400,000 tons (1400 MW) of district cooling projects are planned for the UAE. The Palm Jumeirah utilises district cooling supplied by Palm Utilities LLC to provide air conditioning for buildings on the trunk and crescent of the Palm. The Dubai Metro system, for example,  inaugurated in 2009, remains  the first mass transit network in the world to use district cooling to significantly lower temperatures in stations and trains.

In 2010 the world’s largest district cooling plant opened at the Pearl-Qatar in Qatar. This plant is operated by Qatar District Cooling Company (known as Qatar Cool). It is capable of cooling a load of 130,000 tons (450 MW).

The plant was built by C.A.T. group, a Lebanese-International general contractor with experience in district cooling.  The Lusail City district cooling system supplies chilled water to end users through an integrated network with a connected cooling of 500,000 tons of refrigeration by utilising multiple chiller plants which are Marina, Wadi, West and North. This is currently one of the largest district cooling systems in the world.

A district cooling project began in 2012 in Kuwait for the Sabah Al-Salem University City. It is capable of cooling a load of 72,000TR and it has two central utility plants featuring 36 chillers. The smart mega-city plans to operate exclusively on renewable energy by covering vast areas of land in solar panels and wind turbines. Preliminary plans suggest a projected Neom Offshore Wind farm (NOW)producing 800MW)will generate enough green electricity to power the equivalent of around 800,000 homes (based on an average annual domestic household electricity consumption of3,938 kWh).

Initial schematics suggest the siting of around 240 turbines on a 160 square kilometre site located between 13 and 20 kilometres offshore, reducing carbon emissions by around 1.2 million tonnes per year. Modular development of the site means there will be a capacity to develop a further 1.5GW of wind capacity within two years.

In July 2019 Vestas provided a consortium of EDF Renewables and Masdar with 99 turbines for Saudi Arabia’s first utility-scale wind farm. This is located at the 415MW Dumat Al Jandal wind farm in the southerly Al Jouf region. Vestas will build the project on an engineering,procurement and construction (EPC) basis, supply and install its turbines, and also service the site for 20 years. The consortium - in which EDF Renewables owns a 51% majority stake, and Masdar the 49% remainder - outbid an Engie-led partnership, Enel Green Power and ACWA Power.

Previously, Saudi Arabia has just one operational turbine - a GE 2.75-120 unit owned by oil giant Saudi Aramco in the northern borders of the country. The nation has atarget of 16GW under its Vision 2030 program - a package of economic, energyand public sector goals for the country to achieve by the end of the next decade.

The Renewable Energy Project Development Office is poised to award 850MW of wind capacity this year, with the projects expected to be online commercially between 2021 and 2022. The designers of Neom are working on the link between power generation resources and using advanced desalinisation technology to extract drinkable water from the Red Sea. On average, desalination plants use about 15,000  kilowatt-hours of power for every million gallons of fresh water produced. In comparison, wastewater reuse draws as much as 8,300 kilowatts hours of power for the same volume. Importing a similar amount of water requires as much as 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. To produce a kilolitre of desalinated water it takes less than 3 kWh per kilolitre.

A trial project is underway in the U.S. where researchers anticipate dropping energy usage to 1.7 kWh. The typical cost range for large plant is 0.5 to 0.65 US$ per kilolitre. The costs have dropped by a factor of three in the last 10 years and there has been a 90% reduction in power use over the past 40 years. This is because of improvements in membrane technology and energy recovery systems.

Situated in the north-west of the country, the city of Neom will loosely connect Africa, Asia and Europe. Around 70% of the worlds’population will be able to reach it in under eight hours, which will make it a‘global hub’, say its promoters.

Feb 24, 2020
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