Sustainable and Efficient Power and Water Technologies
Water and energy productions relies mostly on traditional resources nowadays which are not able to provide the necessary level of sustainability and environmental safety. Thus, the main topics of modern research relate to finding the ways to provide the humanity with constant supply of these vital resources and not to cause the excess damage to the planet. This paper provides a comprehensive study of the latest technologies of water production and energy generation utilizing renewable resources. Three major technologies are used nowadays for water desalination. They are reverse osmosis (RO), multi-stage flash (MSF) process and multi effect distillation (MED). Renewable electricity generation technologies convert a naturally existing energy sources such as wind, sun and heat to electricity, enhancing its sustainability. Wind energy, geothermal resources and solar power are used worldwide to produce energy more effectively and at lower cost. These ways of generating energy also decrease the dependence on traditional processing of fossil fuels, which heavily pollute the environment. Additionally, some attention is paid to the progress achieved by the UAE in promoting and developing the sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies for producing fresh water and electricity.
Key words: sustainability, renewable electricity, water desalination, solar power, wind energy, geothermal resources, environmental safety
Sustainable and Efficient Power and Water Technologies
Water and energy shortage stand out among the rest of environmental issues nowadays. These resources are crucial for human well-being and their outage is severely affecting the economy and overall living level. Thousands of people around the world are suffering from water shortage, they are not able to satisfy their basic everyday needs in safe drinking water and in fresh water to be used for farming and construction. Energy crisis is affecting the economy on the large scale, starting from its shortage for basic household needs and to becoming the reason of economic decline due to the increasing cost of energy production.
Water and energy resources are closely linked, as water is widely used for production and distribution of energy, which, in its turn, plays important role in fresh water production, purification and delivery. The type of energy production defines how much water is used for this purpose. At the same time, the availability of water in the region defines the amount, which can be used for generating energy or if any other type of energy production should better be chosen. Thus, decisions made for overcoming water crisis and managing the ways of energy production can impact on each other both in positive and negative ways.
Despite the close connection of these two sectors, they have some basic differences which should be kept in mind while discussing the ways of overcoming water and energy crisis. Access to fresh water has been historically considered one of the basic human rights along with water resources belonging to the general public, while energy has been treated as a private asset and carries some political value as well (Miletto, 2014, pp. 94-95). These aspects serve as key factors fostering the development of new technologies aimed at overcoming water and energy deficiency around the globe.
New Water Desalination Technologies
Scarce supply of drinking water in the world defines the course of new water production and storage technologies. Various ways were suggested and tested, including desalination capabilities of seawater and desalination with the help of solar energy.
Desalination is a process of producing freshwater for drinking and irrigation through removing minerals and salts from seawater. Water is considered to be drinking with salinity below 500 ppm. The complete desalination takes place in 4 stages. At first, water is taken from the sea, next it comes through the processes of filtration and chemical modification, desalination itself and post-treatment measures if needed. The most common technologies of water desalination are reverse osmosis, multi-stage flash process and multi effect distillation.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is regarded to be quite easy, less costly and energy-consuming technology if compared to the others, so it has been widely used and developed to some decent extent over the last twenty years. The technology is based on separating water from the saline solution with the help of membrane through applying osmotic pressure. What is more, the low cost of the process allows for the constant development of technology leading to the designing of high quality membranes which facilitate the production of high quality fresh water (Compain, 2012, p. 221).
Multi-stage flash (MSF) process can be operated with the help of both heat-generated and solar energy. The sea water is heated in a reservoir up to the temperature of 120°C, then it flows into another reservoir with the lower pressure where it boils, and the steam is condensed passing through the range of pipes. This method is characterized with high quality of produced fresh water and by complexity and high cost of the process (Compain, 2012, p. 222).
Multi effect distillation (MED) takes places as an evaporation in a row of vessels connected by tubes at low pressure and temperature between 40°C and 68°C. This technology can be used for producing low amounts of high quality fresh water, it is quite easy and efficient as can be supported by waste heat from power production or solar energy (Compain, 2012, p. 223).
Sustainable Energy Production Technologies
World energy consumption is growing every day due to increase in population and the development of technology. Nowadays, majority of energy supply still is produced through processing of fossil fuels accompanied by massive emissions of poisonous substances causing serious environmental problems. Moreover, numerous resources projections state that the current sources of energy will be exhausted in the near future, so it is high time to start developing sustainable and clean ways of energy production.
A renewable electricity generation technology converts a naturally existing energy sources such as wind, sun and heat to electricity, enhancing its sustainability. The usage of natural phenomena, however, requires smart logistics and management, as the power generating facilities should be located directly in the places of the natural energy concentration, so that these natural sources are used to the full and at the minimal cost.
The wind energy industry has evolved dramatically over the last decades, and it keeps expanding over the globe. It is one of the cheapest ways to obtain energy which can be used for various purposes like household, farming or industry. Wind power converts the kinetic energy of air movement into electricity with the help of turbine and related components. To operate effectively, a wind turbine should be located in an area with high average wind speeds and minimal turbulence. These turbines are set on high towers, as the wind speed increases with the height.
The use of geothermal power for producing electricity is expected to be limited geographically, occurring in the locations having respective natural conditions. This type of energy generation requires hot water or steam accessible within 3 km of the Earth’s surface. The geothermal systems operate to extract the heat and water stored in natural rock or shallow ground by hydraulic stimulation. One distinguishes three types of geothermal plants nowadays. Dry steam plants use underground steam to rotate the turbine, which activates the generation of power. Flash steam facilities use underground water of very high temperature, which produces steam activating the generator. Binary cycle plants use underground heat to warm the fluid in the system which is transformed into steam making the generator work.
Solar energy systems gradually tend to become more widespread, as this type of energy production is less costly than those described above and can be used for generating both small amounts of energy enough to sustain a single household and huge volumes necessary for industrial needs. One distinguishes two types of generating power from solar energy. They are photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP). Photovoltaic type involves utilizing solar panels to absorb photons from the sunlight, and create the electric field which produces the flow of electricity. Concentrating solar power technology is mainly integrated in the huge power plants, it uses mirrors to reflect the solar energy, so it is concentrated, absorbed and later converted into heat, which is used to generate electricity (Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, n.d.).
The Progress Achieved by the UAE in Promoting and Developing Environmentally Friendly Technologies for Producing Fresh Water and Electricity
Natural water resources are limited in the UAE. Due to this, identifying an efficient solution to meet long-term water needs is one of the crucial challenges faced by the country’s government. It draws private business to work on resolving the water crisis in close connection with the state authorities. As it is stated on the Official Portal of the UAE Government, desalination is a dominant technology for producing fresh water. Around 70 desalination plants operate around the UAE, however, it is quite power consuming and costly, relying on electricity in case of reverse osmosis, or a by-product of power generation through multiple-effect distillation and multiple-stage flash distillation (2017). Therefore, the government works on the alternative solutions, making desalination cost less along with preservation of the environment. One of such alternatives is represented by the usage of renewable energy sources, namely, solar power, for desalination, achieving economic benefits and making the production more environmentally friendly.
Efficient energy generation has become another challenge for the UAE due to the growing demand for this resource fostered by constant increase of consumption level due to population growth and economic development. Thus, the authorities of the country promote the research in this field for reaching the high level of energy security and sustainability. A number of organizations and initiatives have been launched and are supported by the UAE government aimed at reaching the aims stated above. Namely, Masdar Projects initiated in 2006, IRENA, an inter-governmental project head-quartered in Abu Dhabi since 2009, Green Economy Initiative started in 2012, Emirates National Grid project launched in 2013.
Speaking of the UAE, it should be underlined that solar energy is one of the preferred renewable sources of energy generation in the country due to the geographic location which is characterized with the large number of solar hours throughout the year. This source of energy production is both environmentally friendly and reduces the dependence on traditional sources like gas, oil and coal. The Official Portal of the SDGs in the UAE provides information that the country has achieved the third rank in the world in the production of solar energy and the next step is building the world's largest Concentrated Solar Power enterprise in Dubai (n.d.). What is more, the UAE government is making huge investments into development of wind power generation technologies around the world.
Fresh water and energy are two of the most crucial topics relating to the environmental protection in the world. The sustainability of these two resources is of high importance for the successful and comfortable functioning of humanity in the modern world. This paper provides a comprehensive study of the latest technologies of water production and energy generation utilizing renewable resources.
Desalination proved to be one of the most efficient and economically feasible technologies of fresh water production. A number of methods are described in this paper which apply heat and pressure. Reverse osmosis is the process of filtering out salts and minerals through membrane using pressure. This approach is regarded to be optimal and is most widely used. What is more, the low cost of the process allows the constant development of technology leading to development of high quality membranes which facilitate the production of high quality fresh water.
The sustainable energy production from renewable sources is the key way to provide the necessary amount of energy for ensuring the functioning of the world’s economy. The use of wind, geothermal resources and solar energy proves to be quite efficient if compared to traditional non-sustainable sources of energy like gas, oil and coal. Solar energy is used widely, due to the technology availability and relatively low cost of the production in case of using solar panels.
Desalination is a dominant way of receiving fresh water in the UAE, however, it is still dependent on energy resources, so the government of the country is facilitating the searches of alternative technologies, like using solar energy for desalination, aimed at making fresh water production cheaper and environmentally friendlier. Solar power is the central focus of development chosen by the UAE government due to the fact that solar energy is available in huge amounts as a result of the state’s geographical position. This is a smart case of using the available natural resources for facilitating the human wellbeing in terms of environmental safety and economic feasibility.
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Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Renewable energy technology basics. Retrieved from: //energy.gov/eere/energybasics/renewable-energy-technology-basics
The Official Portal of the SDGs in the UAE. (n.d.). Improving energy efficiency.Retrieved from: //uaesdgs.ae/en/goals/affordable-and-clean-energy
The Official Portal of the UAE Government. (2017, March 7). Water. Retrieved from: //government.ae/en/information-and-services/environment-and-energy/natural-resources/water-