During the launch of the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Egyptian Engazaat S.A.E, Swedish Azelio AB, and French Mascara NT announced the formation of an alliance to provide innovative utility solutions addressing the challenges of the water-energy-food nexus. The alliance, SAVE Cleantech Utilities, will offer “water-and-energy-as-a-service-model” for the first time in the industry enabling farmers in off-grid desert locations to focus their resources on the farming activities.
SAVE Cleantech Utilities will support the democratisation of sustainable agriculture and the adoption of innovative technologies contributing to solving major human challenges, such as access to water and clean energy in rural areas, hunger, poverty, unemployment, and social developments. Challenges that are magnified by the projected increase in the global demand for food and agriculture over the next decades.
In the case of Egypt, where urban expansion into arable lands pushed agriculture into the desert where water and power are scarce, adaptation is of utmost necessity.
“We are proud to empower small farmers and local growers in rural and off grid area of Moghra Oasis with clean water and energy without any capital or technical burdens,” said Muhammad El Demerdash, co-founder and CEO of Engazaat. “We believe SAVE Cleantech Utilities multilateral impact investment structure and disruptive business model will spark a massive, community-led sustainable agriculture development transformation in Egypt and beyond to Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa” he added.
SAVE Cleantech Utilities will set up water desalination systems using Mascara NT’s OSMOSUN – a desalination technology adaptive to the variability of solar PV resources, that will transform underground brackish water into water fit for agriculture.
Mascara NT’s CEO, Quentin Ragetly said: “This project is the result of a fruitful collaboration of likeminded organisations willing to provide useful solutions that make sense. This project not only demonstrates the efficiency of the combination of the innovative solutions of Mascara and Azelio structured and led by Engazaat, but it also displays the relevance of using innovative business models to provide a sustainable service to farmers and communities. We believe this opens the door to replicate this model to other farming communities across Africa.”
The desalination plant and the irrigation pumps will be powered by a renewable microgrid using Solar PV and Azelio’s TES.POD solution – a long-duration energy storage technology, to supply clean energy 24/7, therefore optimising the use of water through night-time irrigation.
“Joining the SAVE Cleantech Utilities alliance represents a major step forward in Azelio’s mission to power renewable agriculture, and we are proud to be working with such strong partners. The project brings together a unique combination of technologies, and the global potential and need for desalinated water with no CO2 emissions is enormous,” said Jonas Wallmander, CEO of Azelio.
Engazaat’s experience in developing solar-for-water solutions in Egypt and the region will allow for an integrated utility approach that is “socially aware with the highest sustainability standards and the most efficient water utilisation tied to climate-action goals of boosting resilience and mitigation”. The standard and implementation set by the company has been recognised on a national level by Egypt’s COP27 Smart Green Governorates Initiative (SGG), where Engazaat’s Sustainable Agro-Village project implementing solar-for-water solutions in the New Valley Governorate was awarded the silver trophy for the “smartest and most sustainable project” for medium scale category across Egypt.
For its first project, SAVE Cleantech Utilities has chosen to support the farmers of the Moghra Area in Egypt, and set up a plant to supply 2,250 m3/day of agricultural water at 1,000 ppm salinity, powered by a 2.3 MWp of PV and 260 kW/3,300 kWh of electrical storage. Upon completion, the project will be classified as the “first and largest” solar powered brackish water desalination plant offered under a “water-and-energy-as-a-service model.” It will showcase the solution, with the aim of proving to the hundreds of small and medium farmers in the Moghra area that farming their lands and contributing to national food security plan sustainably can go together as initially intended.
The project is at the development phase where financing and planning are being finalised, with a projected start of operation in the fall of 2023.