updated 3/12/2009 8:23:53 PM ET 2009-03-13T00:23:53

A top Saudi official says the world's biggest combined power generation-desalination plant is set to launch this year in the kingdom.

Prince Saud bin Thunayyan, head of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, was quoted by the Saudi El-Ektisadiyah newspaper Wednesday as saying the $3.36 billion combined plant will then begin commercial operations in the Jubail Industrial City by March of 2010.

The plant, which is slated to produce 2,750 megawatts of electricity and 800,000 cubic meters of water per day, is key to Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich desert nation faces chronic water shortages, particularly as it looks to boost its agricultural and industrial sectors.

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