Desalination is a critical piece to the sustainability puzzle.

The world faces a water shortage crisis of epic proportions and many countries are looking eagerly to desalination technology for a solution. Unfortunately, current generation plants are expensive and introduce their own environmental problems. Innovative technologies are needed to help desalination become cleaner, more efficient and affordable. 

Desalination is growing rapidly, especially in areas such as the UAE, which rely on it to provide a reliable supply of drinking water. The future will see rapid growth. Between 2018 and 2025, it is predicted to grow at 7.8% year on year. In recent years it has met 1% of global water demand, but this will have to grow as the world faces a growing water crisis.

In areas which already struggle with water demand, the number of desalination plants is growing. California already has 10 with 11 more proposed.

Economic and Environmental Challenges

Modern desalination plants use reverse osmosis through high pressure systems to move water through the system. This is extremely expensive relative to the amount of water produced. One plant in California costs $1bn and produces only enough water for 7% of San Diego’s needs.

The problem is that desalination plants are extremely energy hungry, making them an expensive way to produce drinking water. Even a modest-sized plant will demand as much energy as a jumbo jet. So, while up-scaling desalination is vitally important to solve the world’s water crisis, running desalination plants profitably is still nearly impossible.

To complicate matters, desalination plants produce as much brine as they do clean drinking water. This brine is typically flushed into the ocean, with devastating impacts on local ecology. It also represents a lost opportunity. If more of that brine could be turned into drinking water, it would boost profitability while also reducing the impact on the environment.

The HERO® Solution

Breakthroughs in desalination technology are urgently needed to increase the amount of fresh water produced and alleviate the impact on the surrounding environment.

One way is to produce more water. By increasing the ratio of membrane to graphene which separates the salt, they can generate more drinking water with the same energy consumption. Innovative companies are also developing technologies that can recycle some of the waste brine into drinking water to increase the amount of usable water produced. 

Plants are also looking to integrate renewable energy such as solar power and offshore wind farms to reduce their energy output. 

Planet Power Systems’ HERO® technology harnesses the power of hydrogen to produce a limitless and zero emission source of heat. It can be retrofitted to existing desalination plants, providing a source of power which is both affordable and environmentally friendly. 

In one sweep, HERO® addresses the key challenges standing in the way of desalination. It produces more energy at a lower cost and with no emissions. This, alongside other technologies, can take desalination from an inefficient process with a high environmental impact to something which is efficient, profitable and part of the move towards a zero carbon economy. 

“The race is now on between the technoscientific and scientific forces that are destroying the living environment and those that can be harnessed to save it. . . . If the race is won, humanity can emerge in far better condition than when it entered, and with most of the diversity of life still intact.”

E.O. Wilson
The Future Of Life