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Desalination by reverse osmosis using photovoltaic solar energy -DESSOL®

Product of seawater or brackish water desalination connected to a photovoltaic solar field with energy storage.

Description

The lack of drinking water has led to the exponential development of desalination at the international level. As part of desalination processes, reverse osmosis is the one that has had the greatest advance due to its modularity and the significant reduction in the consumption of energy (<3 kWh/m3). However, electrical energy is associated with the consumption of traditional sources of primary energy (fossil fuels, nuclear energy), and the consequent environmental impacts.
On the other hand, its application requires the existence of a quality electricity grid. The implementation of autonomous desalination systems using renewable energies offers the solution to this problem, especially in areas with lack of fresh water that are isolated from the electrical grid.
Today, the geographical areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and even the Middle East, can be considered as ideal locations for the installation of this kind of systems. On the one hand, they have significant solar resources, and on the other they undergo the least availability of per capita drinking water. The forecasts of the United Nations indicate that fresh water will become more and more scarce on our planet, but especially in developing countries.
The DESSOL® product is a compact and autonomous seawater or salty water desalination system. Basically, the reverse osmosis technology makes optimal use of the electricity from a photovoltaic solar field with accumulation of energy in order to obtain the necessary drinking water in any shore location or inland environment with brackish water that is isolated from the electricity grid.
The system is conceived for small settlements (1-1500 inhabitants), since the scale/cost factor of the required investment/land restricts the capacity of production installed to 100 m3/day (a little more than 4 m3/h). This implies a real production of about 30 cubic metres per day (7-8 hours of daily production), depending on the solar energy availability and optimization of the batteries backup system.
The investment costs of a system of this type are between €4,000 and €7,000 per daily cubic metre of nominal capacity (24 hours/day), depending on the salinity of the raw water, the latitude of the location, remoteness and the expected level of maintenance and monitoring of the system (remote maintenance or local presence).

 

Potential Benefits and Uses

Both the technology of reverse osmosis and that of photovoltaic solar energy have a high degree of maturity and a wide commercial network of manufacturers and suppliers. On the African and American continents, preferably, there is an increasingly wide market for the  implementation of this kind of systems, as a contribution to deal with the growing problem of the supply of fresh water.

 

In comparison with other technologies, DESSOL® is a robust and flexible system for producing thousands of litres of drinking water a day in situ, without any electric supply or diesel system. There are other advantages: 

• The system permits a design so it can be adapted to the local conditions of a specific location.
• The system can operate perfectly in automatic mode, with a minimum involvement of the maintenance staff.
• There are hardly any companies capable of offering combined systems (desalination plant + photovoltaic field).
• Only the ITC has a protected know-how associated with the combination of these technologies, their design, operation and control.
• There is already notable experience in the installation, testing and operation of these systems - tested on a pilot scale and with five operating units (Tunisia and Morocco) in isolated villages with drinking water demand.
• Favourable position with regard to the lack of fossil fuels or their increasing costs in developed countries. This is a non-competitive alternative to the current conventional energy prices, but looking at the future, the experience gained will serve to promote this technology in a decentralised way.

 

     

 

 

Transfer / Commercialization

The DESSOL® patent is protected in a total of 19 countries, which are mostly African.

References

There are currently five systems installed in Africa, one in Tunisia (2006) and four in Morocco. (2008).

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