Renewable energy sources for desalination

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1 Solar Energy 75 (2003) Renewable energy sources for desalination Eftihia Tzen a, *, Richard Morris b,1 a Centre for Renewable Energy Sources, 19th km Marathonos Ave., GR Pikermi, Greece b Richard Morris & Associates, 9 Letham Drive Newlands, Glasgow, UK Received 6 June 2003; accepted 10 July 2003 Abstract Renewable energy sources (RES) coupled to desalination offers a promising prospect for covering the fundamental needs of power and water in remote regions, where connection to the public electrical grid is either not cost effective or not feasible, and where the water scarcity is severe. Stand-alone systems for electricity supply in isolated locations are now proven technologies. Correct matching of stand-alone power supply desalination systems has been recognized as being crucial if the system is to provide a satisfactory supply of power and water at a reasonable cost. The paper covers plants installed since 1990 on the coupling of the two technologies. The main driver promoting the take up of this technology is that water is a limiting factor for many countries in the Mediterranean region. This paper presents the two technologies, RES desalination, and describes the most promising couplings such as PV reverse osmosis, windmechanical-vapor compression, geothermal-multieffect distillation, etc as well as technologies selection guidelines. Also, included applications and lessons learned from specific applications as well as data on the economics. RES for desalination is an important challenge and useful work has been done. However in order to provide practical viable plants, much remains to be done. Ó 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction The provision of fresh water is becoming an increasingly important issue in many areas in the world. In arid areas potable water is very scarce and the establishment of a human habitat in these areas strongly depends on how such water can be made available. Desalination of seawater and brackish water is one of the ways of meeting water demand. Renewable energy systems have mostly been developed to serve the electricity needs via a network utilizing locally available energy resources. Production of fresh water using desalination Technologies driven by RES is thought to be viable solution to the water scarcity at remote areas * Corresponding author. Tel.: ; fax: addresses: (E. Tzen), (R. Morris). 1 Tel.: ; fax: characterized by lack of potable water and lack of an electricity grid. In recent years the European Union has intensified R&D efforts in this field. Worldwide, several RES desalination pilot plants have been installed and the majority have been successful in operation. Virtually all of them are custom designed for specific locations and utilize solar, wind or geothermal energy to produce fresh water. The present work presents a combination of the two technologies, RES and desalination, and describes the most promising couplings such as photovoltaic (PV) reverse osmosis (RO), wind-ro, wind-mechanical vapor compression, etc. Also included are design guidelines, applications and lessons learned from specific plants as well as data on the economics. Operational data and experience from these plants can be utilized to achieve higher reliability and cost minimization. Although RE powered desalination systems cannot compete with conventional systems in terms of the cost of water produced, they are applicable in certain areas and are likely to become more widely feasible solutions in the near future X/$ - see front matter Ó 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi: /j.solener

2 376 E. Tzen, R. Morris / Solar Energy 75 (2003) Technologies combination and selection guidelines The selection of the appropriate RES desalination technology depends on a number of factors. These include, plant size, feed water salinity, remoteness, availability of grid electricity, technical infrastructure and the type and potential of the local renewable energy resource. Among the several possible combinations of desalination and renewable energy technologies, some seem to be more promising in terms of economic and technological feasibility than others. However their applicability strongly depends on the local availability of renewable energy resources and the quality of water to be desalinated. In addition to that, some combinations are better suited for large size plants, whereas some others are better suited for small scale application. Before any process selection can start, a number of basic parameters should be investigated. The first is the evaluation of the overall water resources. This should be done both in terms of quality and quantity (for brackish water resource). Should brackish water be available then this may be more attractive as the salinity is normally much lower (<10,000 ppm), and hence the desalination of the brackish water should be the more attractive option. In inland sites, brackish water may be the only option. On a coastal site seawater is normally available. The identification and evaluation of the renewable energy resources in the area, completes the basic steps to be performed towards the design of a RES driven desalination system. Renewable energy driven desalination technologies mainly fall into two categories. The first category includes distillation desalination technologies driven by heat produced by RES, while the second includes membrane and distillation desalination technologies driven by electricity or mechanical energy produced by RES. The most promising and applicable RES desalination combinations are shown in Table 1. (Desalination Guide Using Renewable Energies, 1998). Such systems should be characterized by robustness, simplicity of operation, low maintenance, compact size, easy transportation to site, simple pre-treatment and intake system to ensure proper operation and endurance of a plant at the often difficult conditions of the remote areas. Concerning their combination, the existing experience has shown no significant technical problems. The most popular combination of technologies is the use of PV with reverse osmosis (see Figs. 1 and 2) (Morris, 2000). PV is particularly good for small applications in sunny areas. For large units, wind energy may be more attractive as it does not require anything like as much ground. This is often the case on islands where there is a good wind regime and often very limited flat ground. With distillation processes, large sizes are more attractive due to the relatively high heat loses from small units. Energy cost is one of the most important elements in determining water costs where the water is produced from desalination plants. Some energy-consumption data for traditional desalination plants using different desalination techniques are given below. These data refer to conventional operated plants in operation at their nominal power consumption and production. MSF 10% MED 14% ED 5% VC 5% Other 4% RO 62% Fig. 1. Desalination processes used in conjunction with renewable energy. Table 1 RES desalination combinations RES technology Feed water salinity Desalination technology Solar energy Solar thermal Seawater Multi-effect distillation (MED) Seawater Multi-stage flashing (MSF) Photovoltaics Seawater Reverse osmosis (RO) Electrodialysis (ED) Wind energy Seawater Reverse osmosis (RO) Seawater Mechanical vapor compression (MVC) Geothermal Seawater Multi-effect distillation (MED)

3 E. Tzen, R. Morris / Solar Energy 75 (2003) Wind 20% Hybrid 10% Solar Thermal 27% Fig. 2. Energy sources for desalination. Solar PV 43% For RO systems: 5.9 kw h/m 3 without energy recovery (large production plants), 3 4 kw h/m 3 with energy recovery (using a turbine) For ED systems: 1.22 kw h/m 3 (for feed water salinity of 3000 ppm and product salinity of 500 ppm). This consumption is increased by the operation time: increment of 50% after 2.5 operation years For VC systems: kw h/m 3, depending on size plants. As can be seen from the above figures, RO, requires significantly less electrical or mechanical energy to treat seawater than any of the other processes. Hence it is the natural choice in most instances. Among the technologies selection another parameter is the type of connection of the two technologies. A renewable desalination plant can be designed to operate coupled to the grid or off-grid (stand-alone autonomous system). Where the system is grid connected, the desalination plant can operate continuously as a conventional plant and the renewable energy source merely acts as a fuel substitute. Where no electricity grid is available, autonomous systems have to be developed which allow for the intermittent nature of the renewable energy source. Due to the dispersed population that characterizes the South Mediterranean and Gulf areas, relatively small systems are used to cover the potable water needs in remote villages. The main desirable features for such systems are the low cost, low maintenance requirements, simple operation, as well as the high reliability. The latter case poses the problem of renewable energy variability because most energy systems lack an inherent energy storage mechanism. Desalination systems have traditionally been designed to operate with a constant power input (Tzen et al., 2002). Unpredictable and non-steady power input, force the desalination plant to operate in non-optimal conditions and may cause operational problems. Each desalination system has specific problems when it is connected to a variable power system. For instance, the reverse osmosis (RO) system has to cope with the sensitivity of the membranes regarding fouling, scaling, as well as unpredictable phenomena due to start stop cycles and partial load operation during periods of oscillating power supply. On the other hand the vapor compression system has considerable thermal inertia and requires considerable energy to get to the nominal working point. Thus, for autonomous systems a small energy storage system, usually batteries, should be added to offer stable power to the desalination unit. Clearly this only applies to small electrically driven systems. Thermal storage can be added for thermal systems in the form of hot oil or hot water but is expensive. Any candidate option resulting from the previous parameters should be further screened through constraints such a site characteristics (accessibility, land formation, etc.) and financial requirements. Table 2 RES Desalination applications Plant location Water type Desalination unit, capacity RES installed power Commissioning year Unit water cost Abu Dhabi, UAE SW 80 m 3 /d MED 1862 m 2, collectors USD/m 3 Lampedusa, Italy SW m 3 /h RO 100 kwp PV /m 3 University of Almeria, BW 2.5 m 3 /h RO 23.5 kwp PV 1990 Spain Maagan Michel, Israel BW 0.4 m 3 /h RO 3.5 kwp PV, 0.6 kw 1997 W/T + 3 kw diesel ITC, Gran Canaria SW 50 m 3 /d MVC 230 kw W/T 1988 Almeria, Spain, SW 3 m 3 /h MED 6.5MWht collectors /m 3 CIEMAT, DLR Syros island, Greece SW 900 m 3 /d RO 500 kw W/T 1998 Kimolos island, SW 80 m 3 /d MED Geothermal, 61 C 2000 Greece (Karytsas et al., 2002) CRES, Greece SW 130 lt/h RO 4 kwp PV,1 kw W/T 2002 SW: seawater. BW: brackish water.

4 378 E. Tzen, R. Morris / Solar Energy 75 (2003) RES desalination applications and lessons learned Over the last two decades in particular, numerous desalination systems utilizing renewable energy have been constructed. Almost all of these systems have been built as research or demonstration projects and were consequently of a small capacity. It is not known how many of these plants still exist but it is likely that only some remain in operation. The lessons learnt have hopefully been passed on and are reflected in the plants currently being built and tested. Table 2 provides a number of RES Desalination installed plants.

5 E. Tzen, R. Morris / Solar Energy 75 (2003) considered mainly by the manufacturers of both technologies, RES desalination. As stated earlier, most of the RES desalination plants constructed to date have been either as research or demonstration projects. The results of this work will no doubt bear fruit in the future as desalination processes become more robust and more energy efficient. In parallel to this, developments in renewable energy are providing more reliable devices at cheaper prices. These trends are liable to continue for the foreseeable future. 4. Conclusions The worlds water needs are increasing dramatically. New wind, solar and other renewable technologies that can be used for desalination are rapidly emerging with the promise of economic and environmental viability on a large scale. There is a need to accelerate the development of novel water production systems from renewables. Particularly there is a need for a much stronger effort in R&D and D currently inadequate in Europe, which should include a closer collaboration between the RE and Desalination Industries, together with research institutes as well as co-operation namely with Europe s neighbors in the Mediterranean area and Middle East and Africa. Additionally, acceleration of information dissemination, education and training on RES desalination is a necessity. Keeping in mind the climate protection targets and strong environmental concerns, future water desalination around the world should be increasingly powered by solar, wind and other clean natural resources. Such environmentally friendly systems should be potentially available at economic costs. Concerning the coupling of the two technologies no major technical problems have been referred. From the existing experience important parameters for the sufficient operation and performance of such systems are the proper design and sizing of the RES desalination system as well as the fully automation of the system due to the need of reducing the staff requirements and increasing system reliability. For the autonomous hybrid system much work should be done on the system control for optimum exploitation of the renewable energy sources. Finally, cost is an important parameter that affects the market force and should be References Desalination Guide Using Renewable Energies, THER- MIE Programme, CRES, Greece, ISBN Karytsas, K. et al., The Kimolos Geothermal Desalination Project. In: Proceedings of the International Workshop on Possibilities of Geothermal Energy Development in the Aegean Islands Region, Milos Island, Greece, pp Morris, R., UNESCO Workshop June 2000, Santorini, Greece. Tzen, E., Sigalas, M., et al., Design and development of a hybrid autonomous system for seawater desalination. In: Proceedings of PV in Europe From PV Technology to Energy Solutions Conference, Rome, Italy, pp

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