How can renewable energy technologies support the water industry?

How can renewable energy technologies support the water industry?

By Kyle Gracey

The world is thirsty for water. The World Bank expects a major gap between supply and demand by 2030. Meanwhile, pumping water requires significant amounts of electricity. This is expensive. Additionally, most of this electricity comes from fossil fuels. As climate change impacts worsen, the use of fossil fuels faces increasing scrutiny.

Renewable energy can help solve both of these challenges through several different approaches.

Generating power in wastewater treatment:

The first approach takes the waste in wastewater (sewage) and converts it into energy. This energy can then power the wastewater treatment facility, reducing or eliminating its electricity needs. In some cases, the facility generates a surplus of power that can feed into the grid. Several exciting technologies can facilitate this. They range from anaerobic digestion of sewage to produce methane, co-digestion with organic waste, to direct pyrolysis of the wastewater.

While still a relatively untapped source of power. many pilot and full scale operations now exist throughout the world, including in the United States, China, the Middle East and Europe. Research in this area continues. Recently, scientists were able to use specially chosen bacteria that can process a wide range of the chemicals found in wastewater, using it to ultimately generate hydrogen.

Moving water with renewable energy:

Alternatively, water managers, whether irrigators, desalinators or wastewater treaters, increasingly turn to renewable energy for their electricity needs. For example, solar power production peaks in many of the same time periods and places when water is highest. This includes summer irrigation for agriculture and in deserts.

Many emerging economies have begun to embrace the idea, hoping to bypass traditional electricity infrastructure. Water managers appreciate the potential to site renewable energy generation alongside their water infrastructure. Meanwhile, wind turbines have long found use as water pumps. New versions borrow technologies developed for turbines designed to produce electricity to increase their water pumping efficiency. Another recent pilot uses the wind turbine design to collect water from air and pump it to storage tanks.

Pumping water without electricity:

Lastly, while renewable energy can provide some solutions, other strategies reduce or eliminate the need for electricity altogether. PreScouter has reported on several of these.

Spiral pumps move water without the use of electricity or other fuels. They can irrigate crops in areas with limited access to power. The air wheel essentially reverses the principles that power a water wheel. It can generate electricity in certain marine environments.

Thus far, these innovative technologies have played a minor role in water management. However, as renewable energy technologies evolve, and as water demand grows, expect to see more marrying of these two fields. (Image source: Wikipedia Commons)

At PreScouter, we help companies find the most innovative solutions to any challenge. Contact us today and challenge us with yours!

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

More of Our Insights & Work

Never miss an insight

Get insights delivered right to your inbox

You have successfully subscribed to our newsletter.

Too many subscribe attempts for this email address.