The U.S Department of Energy announced that it will allocate new funding to develop solar desalination technologies to help create freshwater from otherwise unusable waters in a more affordable manner.
Desalination treats seawater, brackish water and otherwise contaminated water for use in municipal and industrial water supplies.
But the technology has a major drawback: electricity costs account for up to half of the operating expenses for desalination operations, and the plants have to be connected to the grid to operate.
Solar power on the other hand, either in the form of electricity or thermal power, has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of desalination while enabling smaller, more portable systems.
For this reason, the Solar Energy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy announced last week that it plans to make available up to $15 million for seven to ten projects that explore early-stage technologies. The objective is to significantly reduce the cost of desalination through solar thermal energy.
“By integrating solar technology with desalination, we can dramatically lower the cost of creating clean water,” said Charlie Gay, Solar Energy Technologies Office director.
“Solar desalination can not only be used in creating freshwater from saltwater, but also to clean wastewater from industrial processes.”
The funding from the U.S. government will cover 50 to 80 per cent of the costs, and the rest is expected to come from private investors, representing a total public-private funding of nearly $20 million.