|By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem
Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary project NEOM is set to become the first completely digitalized city in the world.
“We are going to be the first place in the world that is fully digitized. We are going to be the first region in the world where we are going to be a 100 percent cashless facility. We are going to be the first place with a digital health backbone that connects everyone in the smart city and provides a 24-hour health service”, said Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of the landmark development project, NEOM.
“We will have fully autonomous mobility, we will have only electric vehicles and public transport will be fully autonomous,” he added.
Al-Nasr announced that that work on the city’s overall strategy is near completion and will be unveiled in March.
One of the many projects that have already been developed in NEOM is an advanced medical system dubbed “Doctor NEOM”. The project is designed to collect health-related data for residents and predict health problems before they occur.
Furthermore, NEOM will adopt a new solar technology to desalinate seawater at the mega-city that it’s developing along the country’s northern Red Sea coast.
It announced that it will rely on a pioneering solar technology to produce clean, low-cost, environmentally friendly fresh water, as a step to enhance NEOM’s position as a new global destination, a promising center for innovation, environmental conservation and its role as an accelerator of human progress.
NEOM said in a statement it will have the world’s first “solar dome” desalination plants, which it will produce no carbon emissions and create less brine than facilities using conventional reverse osmosis technology.
The agreement has been signed with the UK-based Solar Water Limited and the work on the solar dome project which started this February, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The solar dome plants will also process drinking water more cheaply than conventional plants, at 34 cents per cubic meter, it added.
The cost will be 0.34 USD / cubic meter, equivalent to 1.275 SAR / cubic meter, significantly lower than the cost associated with desalination plants using reverse osmosis methods currently in place.
The project is the first of its kind, totally sustainable, and 100% carbon neutral, designed to shape the future of desalination not only in NEOM, but in the entire world. It
would significantly reduce the environmental impact of the desalination process by producing less quantities of saline solution, which is a by-product of water abstraction that can harm neighboring natural ecosystems.
Saudi Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, Abdul Rahman Al-Fadhli said that the adoption of NEOM of this program supports the sustainability goals set by its ministry, as shown in the National Water Strategy 2030, and it is fully in line with the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.
NEOM said in a statement, that the approach of the pioneering and innovative Solar Water Company Limited was developed at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. It is the first widespread use of the concentrated solar power (CSP) technology in seawater desalination, as seawater is pumped to the “solar dome”.
NEOM, a planned 16-borough city on the Red Sea coast in the northwestern Saudi province of Tabuk, is the vision of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. It is also a centerpiece of the kingdom’s 2030 Vision plan to grow and diversify the Saudi economy.