Droughts are spreading the news like wildfire. Similarly to wildfires, droughts have become notoriously problematic across various parts of the world, posing significant challenges to communities and ecosystems.
Droughts lead to water scarcity and devastating consequences for the affected communities and ecosystems. They are impacting agriculture, human health, and overall socioeconomic development.
Furthermore, water scarcity is becoming such a big problem that it is estimated that nearly 3.5 billion people will face water shortages in the following years. Therefore, scientists and engineers have eagerly sought sustainable solutions to combat water scarcity.
One potential approach is solar water desalination, which harnesses the power of the sun to remove salt from saltwater and convert it into fresh water. Desalination isn’t a new approach to solving drought. But technological advancements have paved the way for the sun to replace the energy necessary to produce fresh water.
That’s why solar water desalination is a viable and, more importantly, sustainable solution to the ongoing global water drought issue affecting billions of people. This article explores the use of solar water desalination as a viable solution to combat droughts. With all that said, let’s begin.
Understanding Solar Water Desalination
Solar water desalination takes an undrinkable water supply and turns it drinkable by harnessing the sun’s power. And herein lies the key component – solar energy. Solar water desalination is a water purification method utilizing cutting-edge technology and revolutionary techniques.
Primarily speaking, solar water desalination relies on the sun as a critical cog in the process. Thanks to technological advancements, we have incorporated various technologies and components to turn undrinkable ocean water into safe and drinkable.
How Does Solar Water Desalination Work?
This approach sounds quite simple. And it is, but a modern solar desalinator is a complex machinery with many moving parts.
Solar panels are at the heart of any solar desalinator equipment, carefully pieced together on a frame to support it. A solar desalinator also requires access to seawater sources, which are undrinkable. Moreover, these solutions encompass a wide range of technologies and techniques to ensure the process can perform its key role.
Each technology and technique plays its unique part in solar water desalination. These include the following:
- Thermal Desalination – multi-stage distillation, multiple-effect distillation, solar stills
- Membrane-Based Desalination – reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, nanofiltration system
Thermal desalination techniques utilize solar energy to heat the seawater and produce freshwater through evaporation and condensation, effectively removing salt from the equation. Multi-stage flash distillation, multiple-effect distillation, and solar stills are examples of thermal desalination methods that have been successfully employed.
On the other hand, membrane-based desalination techniques utilize selective membranes to separate salt and impurities from water through high pressure, with reverse osmosis being the most widely used method. Electrodialysis and nanofiltration also play significant roles in membrane-based desalination.
The Need for Solar Water Desalination in Drought-Prone Areas
Drought-prone regions face severe water supply scarcity challenges, with traditional water sources often unable to meet the demand. The issues are several, including:
- Depleted underground water reservoirs
- Inadequate supply of fresh and clean surface water
- Logistical and cost problems for transporting freshwater
This is where solar water desalination comes in. Solar water desalination offers a viable alternative to traditional clean water resources, allowing ground-prone areas and regions to tap into the abundant seawater surrounding them.
Let’s learn more about these plants and explain how they work.
The Emergence of Portable Solar-Powered Water Desalination Devices to Solve Water Scarcity and Droughts
At the current moment, solar water desalination technology isn’t advanced enough to produce freshwater from seawater on an industrial level. But there are plenty of smaller units that can get the job done exceptionally well.
Solar water desalination devices come in multiple sizes, best explained by how much water they can produce daily. Small-scale desalination devices are tiny and portable, often packed in a secure container with wheels attached for seamless carrying.
Being highly portable and small, these devices are best suited for offshore platforms, boats (cruise ships, fishing boats), and islands where freshwater is either logistically impossible to acquire or too expensive. And these devices also come with portable solar panels, making it possible to harness the sun’s power to perform the solar desalination process.
In addition, the portable units come with all the equipment necessary to help you set up your very own solar desalination plant capable of producing up to 1000L of water daily. That includes a solar battery, water pipes, solar power panels, and a power supply unit.
As mentioned, these smaller, portable plants are excellent for tropical and coastal areas with plenty of seawater. They are small and compact, making them highly flexible and easily transportable, further addressing the expensive freshwater transportation to areas with water scarcity and droughts.
Now, let’s look at the advantages of solar water desalination.
Solar Water Desalination Advantages
Solar water desalination benefits are numerous. Here are some of them:
Solar water desalination harnesses the sun’s energy instead of traditional energy sources. Since the sun isn’t going away soon, this water purification method is renewable, sustainable, and long-lasting. Furthermore, solar energy is green and environmentally friendly, making solar water desalination a highly attractive water purification method.
All you need to power solar water desalinators is the sun. Therefore, communities employing the technology can operate independently from traditional energy grids. Furthermore, small plants can be set up in most regions with scarce clean drinking water, such as islands, coastal areas, and arid lands.
Mitigating Droughts and Water Scarcity
The primary benefit of solar water desalination is combating droughts and water scarcity. This method proves to be a viable source of fresh drinking water in drought-prone regions such as California and Texas in the United States.
In the case of coastal regions with access to seawater, such as California, water solar desalination plants can tap into abundant seawater resources and convert them into freshwater, alleviating water stress and ensuring a reliable supply of freshwater for communities.
Independent From Freshwater Sources
Water scarcity occurs when freshwater sources are overexploited or overused. In some cases, a particular region has no reliable source of drinking water, further exacerbating the issue.
Water solar desalination only needs access to unreliable or undrinkable seawater to convert it into drinkable, making it highly independent from existing global water sources. As a result, it alleviates the strain put on freshwater sources, which in turn helps preserve them from extinction.
Cost Effective and Easy to Set Up
Lastly, solar water desalination plants are cost-effective since solar energy is free. However, initial expenses to set up such plants may be high. The point remains that they are easy to maintain since solar batteries require very low maintenance.
Furthermore, solar water desalination plants come in multiple sizes. Smaller plants are highly flexible and easily transportable, meaning you can set one up anywhere with access to brackish or seawater.
Solar Water Desalination Challenges and Limitations
With that said, solar water desalination isn’t perfect. First and foremost, it is quite energy intensive due to the high costs of producing solar panels and batteries. That makes large-scale production far from viable at the current moment, especially in poorer countries such as Nambia or India.
Even though solar energy is free, operating on an industrial level requires expensive equipment and an abundance of solar panels to produce viable results.
Secondly, desalination produces brine, a byproduct of the process. Scientists have raised concerns regarding the safe disposal of brine from desalination plants. Lastly, the availability of solar energy is highly subject to variability, making solar water desalination plants less effective in certain regions.
Can NEWater Help?
We at NEWater have over 20 years of experience producing solar desalination plants, seawater desalination equipment, and water purification systems. We are high-quality water treatment system manufacturers with a clientele pool of 1000+ businesses from all over the world.
We offer multiple portable solar water desalination devices to help you set up your very own solar desalination operation. Our products come in multiple sizes, including 180L/day and 1000L/day small-scale energy recovery desalination equipment. It’s taken several years of research and testing to master the equipment and its technology, resulting in a 99% of salt removal rate.
Our solar water desalination systems will ensure desalinating water can be turned into reliable and clean drinking water. Check out our video to learn more about how our portable solar-powered water desalinator works.
Contact us for a quick quote on our water treatment equipment and systems.
Solar water desalination is a viable potential solution to combat droughts and alleviate water scarcity in drought-prone regions. Since it relies on the sun’s power, this technology offers a reliable and independent source of freshwater, reducing the pressure on traditional clean water supplies.
With that said solar water desalination can only work in regions with access to seawater or brackish water. Furthermore, due to the high initial costs, it is currently not a viable option for industrial-level production.
While challenges and limitations persist, ongoing technological advancements demonstrate the potential of solar water desalination as a viable means to combat droughts worldwide.
1. Can desalination solve drought?
Desalination can potentially be a viable solution to combat droughts. However, desalination is quite energy intensive, making it highly costly. On the other hand, a variant of desalination, solar desalination, proves to be much more efficient in providing drought-ridden areas with access to clean drinking water.
2. How can desalination help in times of drought?
Desalination takes seawater and turns it into fresh water. Solar water desalination harnesses the sun’s energy to power desalination plants, making it cost-effective. This can help in times of drought as such plants are flexible, tiny, and highly compact, meaning they can be placed around coastal areas or islands to produce clean drinking water.
3. Why is desalination not used to remedy the freshwater crisis?
Despite the numerous solar desalination benefits and advantages over traditional methods, we are currently unable to reliably create industrial-level desalination plants to provide drinking water to entire regions. Instead, our current level of technology can only produce smaller units.