Water scarcity is a major global crisis that already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, lack access to safe drinking water. Desalination is the answer to long-term water security, but it’s also expensive, energy-intensive, and often inaccessible to isolated regions. This is why sustainable off-grid desalination systems powered by renewable energy are essential.
But thanks to the innovative microbial desalination cell (MDC) technology that follows a green, low-energy process with electro-active bacteria to desalinate and sterilize seawater, desalination is becoming a viable low-cost solution for water resources in many areas of the world and is putting an end to water scarcity even in isolated regions.
Now, researchers from the EU-funded W20 project have developed an off-grid innovative solution – the world’s first wave-driven desalination system – called Wave2O. The new system can be deployed quickly, operate completely off-grid, and supply large quantities of fresh water at a competitive cost. The technology uses the power of the ocean waves, a consistent and inexhaustible renewable energy source.
The team’s off-grid, revolutionary system Wave2O drives free energy from an unlimited energy source with the help of a Wave Energy Converter (WEC) attached to the seabed floor, which moves back and forth with the waves. The energy extracted is then used to pressurize seawater that is sent to the shore to directly drive the reverse osmosis (RO) system – the most common method of desalination. Ocean waves alone produce fresh water without requiring any additional source of energy such as electricity.
In addition, the device is capable of operating autonomously, does not require significant financial investments, and can supply large volumes of freshwater. The new system’s daily production of water can cover the needs of about 40,000 people, which is welcome news for island nations and coastal communities.
Another benefit is turning energy into electricity for other needs. ‘While we don’t use electricity in our manufacturing process, we can divert some energy from the pressurized seawater to cogenerate electricity to power our own subsystems and pump fresh water where it is needed and provide both water and power to our customers,’ said Olivier Ceberio, project coordinator and chief operating officer of Resolute Marine.
A miniature version of the world’s first wave-driven desalination system is currently being tested in the United States. If the results are successful, the system will move to a first ocean deployment of a reduced scale Wave2O in PLOCAN, a test site facility in the Canary Islands, followed by a second one at a commercial pilot in Cape Verde.
Cape Verde, a group of islands off the west coast of northern Africa that suffers from severe water scarcity, has one of the world’s highest water costs. Here, the new off-grid water desalination technology could produce water at a third of the cost and provide access to a clean and reliable source of water.