Field Test of Solar Powered Water Treatment 

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University have taken their solar powered reverse osmosis water treatment system on field trips to rural locations in both Australia and Africa. Please click on the image to expand.

Water Treatment Systems

What are Solar Powered Water Treatment Systems?

Solar powered water treatment systems provide clean drinking water by using only the energy from the sun. These systems can be used in remote locations, developing countries and for disaster relief. The considerable advantage of these systems is that they can be stand alone, not requiring a connection to grid electricity.

In many remote communities, drinking water is supplied from groundwater boreholes. These vary in quality: from drinkable to inconsumable brackish water. In these areas, desalination and filtration are essential to provide healthy drinking water. A solar powered water treatment system can be used to provide the electricity to carry out these processes at the borehole site.

Many of the regions that suffer from low or poor quality drinking water also exhibit high levels of solar radiation. When solar radiation is incident on a PV module, the temperature of the module will rise, which reduces the module efficiency. A combined PV and thermal collector offers the advantage of utilizing more of the solar spectrum, in addition to cooling the PV cells and therefore improving their efficiency.

 

What are the challenges for Solar Powered Water Treatment Systems?

Due to the remote locations in which solar powered water treatment is required, the system must be cheap to produce, very efficient and require little maintenance. The use of batteries in these systems should be minimised as they increase lifecycle cost, reduce robustness and have environmental concerns regarding the waste. This introduces a considerable challenge of designing a membrane system that is directly coupled to a PV power supply with no energy storage.

 

How are these challenges being addressed by SISER researchers?

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University are carrying out research into providing solar powered, standalone, cost effective means of water filtration and desalination. Their research into improving the efficiency of such systems includes harnessing as much of the suns energy as possible, intelligent control of the power electronics and improving the membrane technology. Various filtration techniques, including reverse osmosis and membrane desalination, in conjunction with flat panel PV and concentrating PV modules are under investigation. Furthermore, research into a combined concentrating PV/solar thermal system is taking place. The work is being carried in the laboratories in Scotland and on site in remote locations in Africa and Australia. 


SISER researchers with interest in this area are:

Full details of all SISER researchers are found on the SISER People Page

Publications

  1. Renewable energy powered desalination in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Desalination 220(1-3):431-440, 2008.
    BibTeX

    @article{Renewable energy powered desalination in Baja California Sur,
    	mexico, author = "Bermudez-Contreras, Alfredo and Thomson, Murray and Infield, David G.",
    	title = "Renewable energy powered desalination in Baja California Sur, Mexico",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 220,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "431-440",
    	note = "Times Cited: 7 Conference on Desalination and the Environment Apr 22-25, 2007 Halkidiki, GREECE European Desalinat Soc; Ctr Res & Technol Hellas 7",
    	year = 2008
    }
    
  2. A De Munari, D P S Capao, B S Richards and A I Schaefer. Application of solar-powered desalination in a remote town in South Australia. Desalination 248(1-3):72-82, 2009.
    BibTeX

    @article{Application of solar-powered desalination in a remote town in South Australia,
    	author = "De Munari, A. and Capao, D. P. S. and Richards, B. S. and Schaefer, A. I.",
    	title = "Application of solar-powered desalination in a remote town in South Australia",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 248,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "72-82",
    	note = "Times Cited: 5 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 International Workshop on water and Sanitation in International Development and Disaster Relief May 28-30, 2008 Edinburgh, SCOTLAND 5",
    	year = 2009
    }
    
  3. G L Park, A I Schaefer and B S Richards. Potential of wind-powered renewable energy membrane systems for Ghana. Desalination 248(1-3):169-176, 2009.
    BibTeX

    @article{Potential of wind-powered renewable energy membrane systems for Ghana,
    	author = "Park, G. L. and Schaefer, A. I. and Richards, B. S.",
    	title = "Potential of wind-powered renewable energy membrane systems for Ghana",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 248,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "169-176",
    	note = "Times Cited: 3 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 International Workshop on water and Sanitation in International Development and Disaster Relief May 28-30, 2008 Edinburgh, SCOTLAND 3",
    	year = 2009
    }
    
  4. K S Reddy, Ravi K Kumar, Tadhg S O'Donovan and T K Mallick. Performance analysis of an evacuated multi-stage solar water desalination system. Desalination 288:80-92, 2012.
    BibTeX

    @article{Performance analysis of an evacuated multi-stage solar water desalination system,
    	author = "Reddy, K. S. and Kumar, K. Ravi and O'Donovan, Tadhg S. and Mallick, T. K.",
    	title = "Performance analysis of an evacuated multi-stage solar water desalination system",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 288,
    	pages = "80-92",
    	note = "Times Cited: 0 Reddy, srinivas/c-6195-2013 0",
    	year = 2012
    }
    
  5. B S Richards, D P S Capao and A I Schaefer. Renewable energy powered membrane technology. 2. The effect of energy fluctuations on performance of a photovoltaic hybrid membrane system. Environmental Science & Technology 42(12):4563-4569, 2008.
    BibTeX

    @article{Renewable energy powered membrane technology. 2. The effect of energy fluctuations on performance of a photovoltaic hybrid membrane system,
    	author = "Richards, B. S. and Capao, D. P. S. and Schaefer, A. I.",
    	title = "Renewable energy powered membrane technology. 2. The effect of energy fluctuations on performance of a photovoltaic hybrid membrane system",
    	journal = "Environmental Science & Technology",
    	volume = 42,
    	number = 12,
    	pages = "4563-4569",
    	note = "Times Cited: 15 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 15",
    	year = 2008
    }
    
  6. B S Richards, L Masson and A I Schaefer. Impact of Feedwater Salinity on Energy Requirements of a Small-Scale Membrane Filtration System. Appropriate Technologies for Environmental Protection in the Developing World series, 2009.
    BibTeX

    @book{Impact of Feedwater Salinity on Energy Requirements of a Small-Scale Membrane Filtration System,
    	author = "Richards, B. S. and Masson, L. and Schaefer, A. I.",
    	title = "Impact of Feedwater Salinity on Energy Requirements of a Small-Scale Membrane Filtration System",
    	series = "Appropriate Technologies for Environmental Protection in the Developing World",
    	note = "Times Cited: 0 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 International Conference on Environmental Research, Technology and Policy Jul 17-19, 2007 Ghana, SOUTH AFRICA",
    	pages = "123-137",
    	year = 2009
    }
    
  7. B S Richards and A I Schafer. Design considerations for a solar-powered desalination system for remote communities in Australia. Desalination 144(1-3):193-199, 2002.
    BibTeX

    @article{Design considerations for a solar-powered desalination system for remote communities in Australia,
    	author = "Richards, B. S. and Schafer, A. I.",
    	title = "Design considerations for a solar-powered desalination system for remote communities in Australia",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 144,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "193-199",
    	note = "Times Cited: 17 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 Si International Congress on Membranes and Membrane Processes (ICOM) Jul 07-12, 2002 Taulouse, france 17",
    	year = 2002
    }
    
  8. Impact of speciation on fluoride, arsenic and magnesium retention by nanofiltration/reverse osmosis in remote Australian communities. Desalination 248(1-3):177-183, 2009.
    BibTeX

    @article{Impact of speciation on fluoride,
    	arsenic and magnesium retention by nanofiltration/reverse osmosis in remote australian communities, author = "Richards, L. A. and Richards, B. S. and Rossiter, H. M. A. and Schaefer, A. I.",
    	title = "Impact of speciation on fluoride, arsenic and magnesium retention by nanofiltration/reverse osmosis in remote Australian communities",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 248,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "177-183",
    	note = "Times Cited: 5 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 International Workshop on water and Sanitation in International Development and Disaster Relief May 28-30, 2008 Edinburgh, SCOTLAND 5",
    	year = 2009
    }
    
  9. Laura A Richards, Bryce S Richards and Andrea I Schaefer. Renewable energy powered membrane systems: inorganic contaminant removal from Australian groundwaters. Membrane Water Treatment 2(4):239-250, 2011.
    BibTeX

    @article{Renewable energy powered membrane systems: inorganic contaminant removal from Australian groundwaters,
    	author = "Richards, Laura A. and Richards, Bryce S. and Schaefer, Andrea I.",
    	title = "Renewable energy powered membrane systems: inorganic contaminant removal from Australian groundwaters",
    	journal = "Membrane Water Treatment",
    	volume = 2,
    	number = 4,
    	pages = "239-250",
    	note = "Times Cited: 0 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 0",
    	year = 2011
    }
    
  10. Laura A Richards, Bryce S Richards and Andrea I Schaefer. Renewable energy powered membrane technology: Salt and inorganic contaminant removal by nanofiltration/reverse osmosis. Journal of Membrane Science 369(1-2):188-195, 2011.
    BibTeX

    @article{Renewable energy powered membrane technology: Salt and inorganic contaminant removal by nanofiltration/reverse osmosis,
    	author = "Richards, Laura A. and Richards, Bryce S. and Schaefer, Andrea I.",
    	title = "Renewable energy powered membrane technology: Salt and inorganic contaminant removal by nanofiltration/reverse osmosis",
    	journal = "Journal of Membrane Science",
    	volume = 369,
    	number = "1-2",
    	pages = "188-195",
    	note = "Times Cited: 3",
    	abstract = "The objective objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of fluctuating energy and pH on retention of dissolved contaminants from real Australian groundwaters using a solar (photovoltaic) powered ultrafiltration-nanofiltration/reverse osmosis (UF-NF/RO) system. Four NF/RO membranes (BW30, ESPA4, NF90, and TFC-S) were used. Energy fluctuations affected pressure and flow. Solar irradiance levels impacted retention of fluoride, magnesium, nitrate, potassium, and sodium where convection/diffusion dominated retention. Retention of calcium, strontium, and uranium was very high and independent of solar irradiance, which was attributed to a combination of size and charge exclusion and for some solutes sorption and precipitation. Groundwater characteristics affected retention and the solutes were categorized into two groups according to retention as a function of pH: (1) pH-independent retention (arsenic, calcium, chloride, nitrate, potassium, selenium, sodium, strontium, and sulfate) and (2) pH-dependent retention (copper, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, uranium, vanadium, and zinc). The retention of Group 1 solutes was typically high and attributed to steric effects. Group 2 solutes had dominant, insoluble species under certain conditions which led to deposition on the membrane surface (and thus varying apparent retention). The renewable energy membrane system removed a large number of groundwater solutes reliably over a range of real energy and pH conditions. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.",
    	year = 2011
    }
    
  11. Helfrid M A Rossiter, Margaret C Graham and Andrea I Schaefer. Impact of speciation on behaviour of uranium in a solar powered membrane system for treatment of brackish groundwater. Separation and Purification Technology 71(1):89-96, 2010.
    BibTeX

    @article{Impact of speciation on behaviour of uranium in a solar powered membrane system for treatment of brackish groundwater,
    	author = "Rossiter, Helfrid M. A. and Graham, Margaret C. and Schaefer, Andrea I.",
    	title = "Impact of speciation on behaviour of uranium in a solar powered membrane system for treatment of brackish groundwater",
    	journal = "Separation and Purification Technology",
    	volume = 71,
    	number = 1,
    	pages = "89-96",
    	note = "Times Cited: 1",
    	abstract = "Factors affecting uranium removal from brackish groundwater using a direct solar powered ultrafiltration-nanofiltration/reverse osmosis membrane system were investigated during a field trial in the Australian outback. The key variables were uranium speciation (as a function of pH), groundwater type as well as energy variation over the course of a day. It was found that uranium was retained by the membranes over the pH range 3-11, but strongly adsorbed to membranes at pH 4-7. The speciation of uranium at pH 4-7 explained the adsorption to the membrane. The presence of other inorganic species, in particular calcium, was a likely cause of uranium co-precipitation at pH 10-11. During solar energy experiments, it was found that the specific energy consumption increased over the course of the day. This indicated fouling through precipitation on the membranes which caused reduced retention of uranium towards the end of the solar day. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.",
    	year = 2010
    }
    
  12. A I Schafer, C Remy and B S Richards. Performance of a small solar-powered hybrid membrane system for remote communities under varying feedwater salinities. 4th World Water Congress: Innovation in Drinking Water Treatment 4(5-6):233-243, 2004.
    BibTeX

    @article{Performance of a small solar-powered hybrid membrane system for remote communities under varying feedwater salinities,
    	author = "Schafer, A. I. and Remy, C. and Richards, B. S.",
    	title = "Performance of a small solar-powered hybrid membrane system for remote communities under varying feedwater salinities",
    	journal = "4th World Water Congress: Innovation in Drinking Water Treatment",
    	volume = 4,
    	number = "5-6",
    	pages = "233-243",
    	note = "Times Cited: 1 Wilderer, P 4th World Water Congress of the International-Water-Association Sep 19-24, 2004 Marrakesh, MOROCCO Int Water Assoc; AMEPA; ONEP; LYDEC 1 1-84339-468-5",
    	year = 2004
    }
    
  13. A I Schafer and B S Richards. Testing of a hybrid membrane system for groundwater desalination in an Australian national park. Desalination 183(1-3):55-62, 2005.
    BibTeX

    @article{Testing of a hybrid membrane system for groundwater desalination in an Australian national park,
    	author = "Schafer, A. I. and Richards, B. S.",
    	title = "Testing of a hybrid membrane system for groundwater desalination in an Australian national park",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 183,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "55-62",
    	note = "Times Cited: 10 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 European Conference on Desalination and the Environment May 22-26, 2005 St Margherita, ITALY Int Water Assoc; Int Solar Energy Soc; Int Desalinat Assoc; Amer Water Works Assoc; Water Sci & Technol Assoc 10",
    	year = 2005
    }
    
  14. M Thomson and D Infield. A photovoltaic-powered seawater reverse-osmosis system without batteries. Desalination 153(1-3):1-8, 2003.
    BibTeX

    @article{A photovoltaic-powered seawater reverse-osmosis system without batteries,
    	author = "Thomson, M. and Infield, D.",
    	title = "A photovoltaic-powered seawater reverse-osmosis system without batteries",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 153,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "1-8",
    	note = "Times Cited: 19 Conference on Desalination Strategies in South Mediterranean Countries May 04-06, 2002 Sham el shelkh, egypt European Desalinat Soc; European Union; Alexandria Univ Desalinat Studies & Technol Ctr; UNESCO; Int Water Assoc; Water Sci & Technol Assoc; Middle E Desalinat Res Ctr 20",
    	year = 2003
    }
    
  15. M Thomson and D Infield. Laboratory demonstration of a photovoltaic-powered seawater reverse-osmosis system without batteries. Desalination 183(1-3):105-111, 2005.
    BibTeX

    @article{Laboratory demonstration of a photovoltaic-powered seawater reverse-osmosis system without batteries,
    	author = "Thomson, M. and Infield, D.",
    	title = "Laboratory demonstration of a photovoltaic-powered seawater reverse-osmosis system without batteries",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 183,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "105-111",
    	note = "Times Cited: 23 European Conference on Desalination and the Environment May 22-26, 2005 St Margherita, ITALY Int Water Assoc; Int Solar Energy Soc; Int Desalinat Assoc; Amer Water Works Assoc; Water Sci & Technol Assoc 23",
    	year = 2005
    }
    
  16. M Thomson, M S Miranda and D Infield. A small-scale seawater reverse-osmosis system with excellent energy efficiency over a wide operating range. Desalination 153(1-3):229-236, 2003.
    BibTeX

    @article{A small-scale seawater reverse-osmosis system with excellent energy efficiency over a wide operating range,
    	author = "Thomson, M. and Miranda, M. S. and Infield, D.",
    	title = "A small-scale seawater reverse-osmosis system with excellent energy efficiency over a wide operating range",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 153,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "229-236",
    	note = "Times Cited: 10 Conference on Desalination Strategies in South Mediterranean Countries May 04-06, 2002 Sham el shelkh, egypt European Desalinat Soc; European Union; Alexandria Univ Desalinat Studies & Technol Ctr; UNESCO; Int Water Assoc; Water Sci & Technol Assoc; Middle E Desalinat Res Ctr 10",
    	year = 2003
    }
    
  17. M Werner and A I Schafer. Social aspects of a solar-powered desalination unit for remote Australian communities. Desalination 203(1-3):375-393, 2007.
    BibTeX

    @article{Social aspects of a solar-powered desalination unit for remote Australian communities,
    	author = "Werner, M. and Schafer, A. I.",
    	title = "Social aspects of a solar-powered desalination unit for remote Australian communities",
    	journal = "Desalination",
    	volume = 203,
    	number = "1-3",
    	pages = "375-393",
    	note = "Times Cited: 14 Schaefer, Andrea/C-9123-2013 5th Conference on Desalination Strategies in South Mediterranean Countries (EuroMed 2006) May 21-25, 2006 Montpellier, FRANCE European Desalimat Soc; Univ Montpellier II 14",
    	year = 2007
    }