The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $100 million to establish an Energy-Water Desalination Hub that will focus on desalination R&D in low-cost alternatives that treat ‘non-traditional’ water sources to produce fresh water to cover the needs for the resource in the United States.
The Hub will target early-stage research and development (R&D) of energy-efficient and cost-competitive desalination technologies, including manufacturing challenges, as well as the treatment of non-traditional water sources for multiple end-use applications.
The “non-traditional” water sources, such as seawater, brackish water, and produced waters, will be considered for research as low-cost alternatives that could be exploited for use in municipal and industrial water supplies, or to serve other water resource needs through desalination.
Rick Perry, the US Secretary of Energy, said: “By focusing R&D efforts on advancing transformational technologies that promote cost-effective desalination, we are working towards meeting the national and global need for secure, affordable water.”
The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office will lead the Energy-Water Desalination Hub.
The Hub team will work to achieve the goals of four technical topic areas, including materials research and development; new processes research and development; modeling and simulation tools; and integrated data and analysis.
In March, Secretary Perry hosted a roundtable discussion at the White House to explore the use of prize competitions to drive technological innovation in critical water issues. DOE is working with interagency partners to develop prizes and associated R&D that will catalyze innovation at the nexus of energy and water.
Energy and water systems are interconnected, according to DOE, as energy is required to extract, treat, and deliver water.
On the other hand, water is used in multiple phases of energy production and electricity generation, from irrigating crops for biofuels to providing cooling water for thermoelectric power plants.
Purifying water for these processes can be energy intensive and becomes more difficult as levels of saline increase. Successful research, therefore, can reduce demand on stressed freshwater supplies, according to DOE.
Globally, fresh water scarcity is a major humanitarian and economic challenge that impacts all sectors of society, DOE warned.