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The Use of Potential Renewable Energy Resources for

Developing Sustainable Water Supplies


Tamim Younos
Virginia Water Resources Research Center and Department of Geography, Virginia Tech
ABSTRACT
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Safe and adequate water supplies are needed to protect public health and to sustain economic productivity. The
Engineer of 2020, a National Academy of Engineering publication quotes: The question of water is at the
heart of a 600-page world water development report issued by the United Nations in 2003. Its projected that
within the next 20 years virtually every nation in the world will face some type of water supply problem. In
coming decades, significant increased water demand is expected in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and
population and industrial centers in Virginia.
To meet future global water demand, in addition to developing conventional surface and groundwater sources
that are quickly diminishing, it will become necessary to develop alternative water sources. Potential
alternative water sources include urban storm water runoff, municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges,
saline and other waters that are impure for human consumption and economic uses. Currently, advanced and
highly effective water purification systems using technologies such as membranes and thermal (distillation)
processes are being developed for this purpose. However, these advanced water purification technologies are
energy intensive and feasibility of implementing these technologies are directly affected by energy
consumption.

There is a significant need to integrate renewable energy resources into water production systems. Potential renewable energy
resources include solar energy (e.g. photovoltaic and solar energy concentrators/collectors), wind energy, geothermal energy, and
ocean energy (tidal power, wave energy, and thermal energy). This poster presentation provides an overview of the potential use
of renewable energy resources for developing sustainable water supplies that implement advanced water purification
technologies. The presentation addresses the potential and limitations of these alternative energy resources for production of
sustainable water supplies in Virginia and the need for developing interdisciplinary research, institutional framework, and policy
making to meet future global water demand.
Acknowledgments: Kimberly Tulou assisted with research, Jane Walker with editing, and Kelly Davis with developing the
poster.

INTEGRATING RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES TO


PRODUCE SUSTAINABLE WATER SUPPLIES

Potential Renewable
Energy Resources

WATER PURIFICATION TECHNOLOGIES AND


ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Solar

Reverse Osmosis
(RO)
Electrodialysis
(ED)
Multistage-Flash
Evaporation
(MSF)

Thermal Technologies Thermal technologies


use evaporation and distillation processes to
purify water. The process is highly energy
intensive and uncommon in the United States.
Advanced technologies such as Mechanical
Vapor Compression (MVC) integrate thermal
and mechanical energy.

Low Temperature
Multi
Effect Evaporation
(LT- MEE)
Multi Effect
EvaporationThermal Vapor
Compression
(MEE-TVC)

Type of Energy

Work*
Consumed
(kwh/m3)

Mechanical Energy

4.2 10.0

With Cogeneration &


Steam

2.3 5.8

Electric Energy

1.7

Thermal Energy

18.8

+ Mechanical
Energy

23.2

With Cogeneration

4.7

Thermal &
Mechanical Energy

5.0

With Cogeneration

2.1 4.6

Thermal and
mechanical Energy

9.0 17.0

Mechanical Vapor
Compression
(MVC)

Mechanical Energy

6.0 18.5

Hybrid RO/ME

Thermal &
Mechanical Energy

1.35-1.6

Energy Conservation
Increase Output of Traditional Sources (coal, oil, nuclear)
Using Renewable Energy Sources (solar, wind, geothermal, ocean)

Runoff

Purification
Technologies

Geothermal

Disadvantages

Cost

Applicability in Virginia

Affordable and easy


to maintain, good
efficiency

Requires large land


area and sunlight

Low

Not applicable as a significant energy


source in Virginia - applicable for
remote areas with lots of sunlight

Indirect Solar
Energy
(Photovoltaic
& Solar
Collectors)

Good energy
collectors

Low efficiency, and


high manufacturing
costs, requires large
arrays

Med
.

Has potential for use as a power


supplement.
Research is needed to increase
efficiency and determine potential in
Virginia

Wind Energy

Mature technology
that can generate
large amounts of
energy

Wind is intermittent

Applicable but may not have enough


winds to be cost-effective in Virginia
coastal areas.
Research is needed to determine the
potential.

Geothermal
Energy

Large amounts of
resources available
in some areas

Technology is
undeveloped for
application to
desalination

Not applicable as a significant energy


source in Virginia - there are not
enough geothermal reserves in
Virginia

Ocean Energy
Tidal

Tides occur at every


coastline, fairly
efficient

Energy is
intermittent

High

Applicable but may not have enough


difference in elevation between tides
to be cost-effective.
Research is needed to determine the
potential.

Ocean Energy
Wave

Cost effective for


large plants, less
expensive than diesel
or hydropower

Wave heights vary

Med
.

Applicable
Research is needed to determine the
potential.

Ocean Energy
Thermal

Research in progress

Few areas where


ocean has significant
temperature
variations with
depth, expensive,
low efficiency

High

Applicable but not practical until


technology is further improved and
costs are decreased.

Direct Solar
Energy
(Stills)

Saline Water

Ocean

Other

Sustainable Water Supplies

GLOBAL EXAMPLES USING RENEWABLE ENERGY RESOURCES


FOR DEVELOPING WATER SUPPLIES
Photovoltaic arrays convert solar energy into electricity through
the transfer of electrons. The arrays are made of silicon chips
because silicon effectively and efficiently transfers electrons.
When sun rays shine on the silicon chips, the electrons jump to
another orbit. This movement creates a voltage that can be used
to power pumps for water purification.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Wind energy rotates windmills creating mechanical energy that can be
converted to electrical energy. Turbines utilizing wind energy for low power
(10 kW-100 kW), medium power (100 kW-0.5 MW), and high power (> 0.5
MW) are mature technologies.

1.
2.
3.

Location

APPROACHES TO MEET ENERGY DEMAND

Advantages

Wastewater

Advanced

Wind
Water
Purification
Technology

Renewable
Energy Sources

Alternative Water
Sources

Water
Membrane Technologies Membrane water
purification processed use either pressure-driven
or electrical-driven technologies or a
combination of these technologies. Reverse
Osmosis (RO), a pressure-driven process, is the
most common technology in the United States.
Energy is needed to operate the process.

APPLICATION POTENTIAL IN VIRGINIA

Perth, Western
Australia

Power
Generated
(kW)

Technology

Capacity
(gal/d)

1.2

RO

634-3170

Location
Shark Bay, Australia

RO

845

North of Jawa,
Indonesia

25.5

RO

3170

Vancouver,
Canada*

4.8

RO

264

19.84

RO

13210

Ruegen Island,
Germany

2.59

RO

6023

Gran Canaria, Spain

Hassi-Khebi,
Argelie

Technology

Capacity
(gal/d)

32

RO

44380 & 34340

REFERENCES

RO +
ED

Borj-Cedria, Tunisia

Jeddah, Saudi
Arabia

Red Sea, Egypt

Power
Generated
(kW)

Fuerteventura Island,
Spain

RO

14794

Ile du Planier, France

RO

3170

Helgoland, Germany

RO

6086000

MVC

31700-79250

RO

52830

200

Develop an atlas of potential renewable natural resources in Virginia with regard to their availability and
potential in a Geographic Information System (GIS) environment
Form an interdisciplinary research team of experts in energy, water purification technologies, water resource
economics, and geospatial analysis to develop a template for overall research needs and costs
Create a statewide task force that includes representatives from regulatory agencies, utilities (water and
power), academia, and citizens that will develop the framework for institutional infrastructure and
implantation strategies for using renewable energy for water production.

Younos, T (Ed.). 2005. Desalination A Primer. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education.
Universities Council on Water Resources, Carbondale, Ill. 52 pp. To order e-mail: ucowr@siu.edu.
Younos, T. 2004. The feasibility of using desalination to supplement drinking water supplies in Eastern Virginia.
VWRRC Special Report SR25-2004. Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
114 pp. Available Online: www.vwrrc.vt.edu/publications/recent.htm