Wanted: Energy-Efficient Solutions to Quench the World’s Thirst for Water

Wanted: Energy-Efficient Solutions to Quench the World’s Thirst for Water

April 15, 2014 at 11:04am

A quick look at this global map of water-stressed countries shows a wide splash of red – denoting high levels of water scarcity — across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. In fact, the MENA region has only 1.4% of the world’s freshwater resources, but 6.3% of the global population – a mismatch with potentially severe consequences.

Seawater desalination is one way to fill the gap, but it’s energy intensive – with energy consumption accounting for up to 70% of desalination costs. This is hard on the environment and on budgets, whether those of governments, businesses or consumers. Yet, while the region has almost no water, it has abundant sunshine, encouraging many to ask whether solar energy could be used for desalination. Plants using this technology are already under development in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Reverse osmosis technologies – such as those provided by GE Power & Water – push seawater through a purifying membrane, a solution that is more energy efficient than conventional thermal desalination.

While the need for environmentally and financially sustainable desalination is obvious in the MENA region, it is also a major issue globally, where production of desalinated water uses approximately 75.2 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power nearly 7 million homes.

That’s why GE ecomagination has partnered with Aramco Entrepreneurship to launch a global open innovation challenge to find innovative solutions that increase energy efficiency in seawater desalination. Four winners will be awarded a prize of $50,000 each and the possibility of further commercialization for the best ideas.

The goal of this challenge is to identify novel ways to lower these costs around the world, either through technology advances, process improvements, or both.

Entries can be submitted at www.ninesights.com/community/ecomagination. The deadline is July 16, 2014, and winners will be announced in November 2014. For more on GE’s ecomagination initiative and portfolio of solutions, click here.

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