Solar desalination: Cases, synthesis, and challenges

Authors: William Delgado*, University of Texas - Austin, Timothy Beach, University of Texas - Austin, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, University of Texas - Austin
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Energy, Economic Geography
Keywords: desalination, solar energy, water resources
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Desalination will become an increasingly important water resource to supply a
growing world population that will face greater water scarcity in the coming
decades. Desalination processes are energy-intensive and currently rely on
fossil fuels that contribute to global warming and exacerbate the planet's water
woes. Solar power, as a low-carbon energy resource, can reduce desalination's
environmental footprint. However, there are many logistical considerations to
take into account when planning solar desalination projects. This paper examines
six of these issues, which include: (a) the spatial distribution of solar energy and
saline water, (b) modeling tools to measure the financial feasibility of solar
powered desalination plants, (c) community approval, (d) interconnection policies
for solar desalination plants connected to the regional grid, (e) combining solar
energy with other renewable energy sources, and (f) potential carbon savings from
switching to solar energy. The paper will conduct its analysis through four key
case studies in El Paso, Texas, Abilene, Texas, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates,
and Denmark, Australia. The paper concludes with a discussion on how improved
solar technology will further the economic prospects of solar desalination and an
analysis of brine disposal options that include siting seawater desalination operations
in waters with high circulation and explaining how brine harvesting could
lead to useful economic mineral products such as sodium, chlorine, potassium,
and magnesium.

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