Can desalination and clean energy combined help to alleviate global water scarcity?
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Sood, Aditya; Smakhtin, Vladimir. 2014. Can desalination and clean energy combined help to alleviate global water scarcity? Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 50(5):1111-1123. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jawr.12174
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/58383
The major present hindrance in using desalination to help alleviate global water scarcity is the cost of this technology, which, in turn is due to energy cost involved. This study examines historical trends in desalination and breaks up the cost of desalination into energy based and nonenergy based. It then develops the learning curves (relationship between cumulative production and market price) for desalination. Assuming that the photovoltaic (PV) technology will be the dominant form of energy used in the desalination process, the existing PV learning curve and desalination learning curve are combined to explore the viability of large-scale adoption of desalination in the future. The world has been divided into seven regions and it is assumed that water demand from desalinated water will be met only within the 100-km coastal belt. It is shown that, in most of the regions, other than sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, and South Asia (where water tariffs are low), the desalination (without considering energy) becomes viable by 2040. For PV technology, less than 1 million MW per annum growth is required till 2050 to make it affordable. Globally, desalination with renewable energy can become a viable option to replace domestic and industrial water demand in the 100-km coastal belt by 2050.