Making waves is their business!
By Ray Petersen — It’s not hard to meet, or hear about interesting people, with interesting lives, and interesting jobs and interests. Especially here in Oman, where the expatriate community lives in something of a ‘bubble.’ Rather than the famed, ‘Six Degrees of Separation,’ as proposed by Frigyes Karinthy 100 years ago, as researched by Micheal Gurevich in 1961, adapted for the stage by John Guare in 1990, as the 1993 movie starring Will Smith, Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing, and continued since, by such notables as Madonna and Kevin Bacon.
It appears that here in Oman, it’s more like ‘three’ degrees! I have an interest in cycling, which I must admit is a passive, mostly non-participant role. My friend, Franz is a conservationist with an interest in efficient water management, like myself, not a “dolphin stroking, tree hugging, greenie,” but socially conscious of the role we must all play in resource management. Franz is also a cyclist, who established ‘Oman’s hottest bike shop,’ a few years back. Franz went cycling last week, and met a thoroughly interesting fellow cyclist, whom I was introduced to as a consequence.
So, only three degrees away, Reinoud Kimman MSc, as well as being an enthusiastic cyclist, is an Engineer, and Business Development Executive for the emphatically named, Elemental Water Makers, based in Delft, in the Netherlands. In a week during which the Muscat International Water Conference was themed upon ‘Water Resources in Arid Areas: The way forward,’ over four days last week, he created interest among some of the participants in offering a practical option to rival, or complement, the desalination systems currently operating in the Sultanate by focusing on efficient, solar powered solutions.
Kimman presented a vision for Oman, in water desalination, that offers “an innovative method of producing fresh water from seawater, utilising solar power. Importantly,” he said, “our technology can offer cost effective renewable energy solutions, which will produce fresh water 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” He explained that, “We are a young company, formed only in 2012, but we have a wealth of technological experience in the areas of desalination and renewable energy sources.
The scarcity of fresh water in Oman, can be effectively challenged by using nature’s largely untapped energy sources of the sea, sun, earth and wind, and we are a proven and experienced company in this sphere.” It’s clear that the global search for more water, and utilising alternative energy is not simply an idealist issue, but one that now demands feasible economic solutions. Speaking late last week, Kimman was adamant that their most recent installation on the Virgin Islands, which is producing more than enough water to meet the demands of an olympic sized pool, “is merely a nod towards the immense possibilities of Elemental Water Maker’s technological understanding, of the potential of solar energy driven reverse osmosis.”
He also commented on the societal impact of renewable energy, through its ease of operation, confirming that once a plant is up and running, it will require minimal, fairly low level maintenance, and that means both, that there is minimal residual cost, and local labour can be employed to service the units. Kimman offered the example of a recently signed agreement to provide 50,000 litres of drinking water, per day, to 1300 people in Cape Verde, which has a similar climate to that of Oman. There, he said, “By generating job opportunities in the local communities there are direct social gains, in addition to the lower cost of water.”
Of course, the sceptics will say that any entity with a vested interest is liable to make such claims, however fresh water scarcity, the spectre of climate change, and the need for long-term solutions, are all as inescapable as the influence of global oil prices on the Omani economy. The reality is that if we can halve the cost of producing drinking water through desalination, with the added benefit of reduced carbon emissions, sustainable and fiscally responsible options do certainly become a reality.
From my perspective, as a concerned global citizen and an Omani resident, the nation has nothing to lose in trying this concept, which would appear ideally suited to small, remote, and particularly coastal settlements. Also boutique tourist operations, industrial complexes, and schools may benefit. Maybe, if we can get a plant that costs ‘next to nothing’ to run, a remedy, or solution is at hand. Or at least, only as far away as Delft, a wonderfully cultured, and academically robust city, in the centre of Europe. Maybe, only a few degrees away.