Towards an Integrated Solution for Renewable Water and Energy

(1) University Transition Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, (2) Physics Department, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
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In order to provide an integrated solution for two sustainability issues, supplying clean water and using renewable energy sources, we propose a solar desalination plant that uses solar energy for seawater desalination and generating electricity. To test the efficiency of the hypothetical plant, we conducted two small-scale simulations. The first simulation tested our solar tracking robot and how it could maximize the amount of solar energy collected. When the sun’s position is near the zenith, our data on the solar azimuth and elevation angles were consistent with theoretical predictions, but the data deviate from theoretical values at other times due to atmospheric refraction, which was not considered in the theory. The second simulation investigated the desalination process by controlling the salinity and surface area, while keeping the water temperature below the boiling point. We found that the volume of water vapor exponentially decreased with salinity and linearly increased with the surface area of the saline water. From our experimental data, we estimated that, by collecting vapor from saline water at a temperature slightly less than the boiling point, the yield of desalinated water was 67% greater than that of the direct evaporation method. Locations where the system would be most efficient are coastal areas between 40 °N and 40 °S, where the ratio between solar radiation and ground water recharge rate is at a maximum.

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