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Using Renewable Energy to Increase Access to Potable Water

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Jane Marsh's picture
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Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

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  • Jun 15, 2021 9:28 pm GMT
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There is a longstanding connection between low-income regions and limited clean water accessibility. Flint, Michigan, is a notorious example of a potable water disaster, causing community-wide adverse health effects. President Biden’s Build Back Better policy increases environmental justice while expanding the clean energy industry.

We may utilize renewable energy, developing clean water extraction and generation devices that align with national infrastructure alterations. Increasing drinking water accessibility sourced from solar, and wind power can also decrease our carbon footprint. Limiting localized pollution may conserve natural resources and protect struggling communities.  

Rising Access Challenges

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Nearly 2.1 billion individuals lack access to safe drinking water. Part of the problem derives from limited resources and maintenance education. Rising energy costs also significantly affect potable water extraction and generation.

The water sector accounts for 42% of global energy consumption. A significant portion of power generation derives from fossil fuels. The greenhouse gas emitting fuel cost rises each year, limiting a region’s ability to support potable water processing financially.

Another accessibility challenge is the increasing global population. It expands by 1.05% each year, limiting our ability to distribute drinking water equitably. Though sea levels are rising, our freshwater resources are decreasing.

Water covers over 71% of the planet. The oceans contain nearly 96.5% of the total resource, leaving limited freshwater resources. As the global temperature rises and ice caps melt, sea levels rise rather than freshwater sources.

Fortunately, renewable energy-driven devices are increasing communities’ accessibility to potable water. Environmental scientists and engineers developed production and extraction systems, generating enough potable water to secure basic human needs.

Solar Desalination

Rising sea levels may increase our clean water accessibility when filtered through a solar desalination system. Solar panels convert light into electricity at a 20% efficiency rate on average. The remaining heat absorbed by the device is considered a waste.

Scientists developed a conversation technique, utilizing excess heat for the desalination of seawater. They produced a three-stage distillation system connected to the backside of a panel. Excess heat causes ocean water evaporation.

The desalinated water rises into collection chambers for further treatment. Researchers found the seawater conversion system generated three times more potable water than traditional solar stills. It additionally utilizes zero energy when in use, significantly reducing the cost of freshwater extraction.

Solar Filtration

Another solar-powered potable water device converts brackish water, contaminated freshwater and seawater into a drinkable resource. Similar to the apparatus discussed above, a team of researchers developed an evaporation extraction solar device. The system converts all water sources into a potable substance, eliminating toxic runoff and generating drinkable solutions

A highly efficient photothermal feature extends on the non-potable source’s surface. It generates heat from sunlight through a solar panel above, evaporating and collecting freshwater. As a result, the device loses zero energy during processing and generates additional power from the water source.

Together, the solar and water source create 170% non-emission energy. The solar filtration device is ideal for inland communities that live by polluted ponds or lakes. It is also useful for regions without water sources.

Solar filtration systems can convert wastewater into a potable solution. Renewable energy devices can extract freshwater from treatment facilities, increasing a community's accessibility to drinking water and reducing traditional chemical pollution from processing methods. The solar device exposes wastewater to heat and light, destroying microbial threats.

Wind Extracted Water

Vici Labs, UC Berkeley and the National Peace Corps Association developed a renewable energy-driven clean water device called the WaterSeer. The system uses a wind turbine, extracting moisture from the air. Then, it filters the water into a chamber six feet underground.

The community above can pump the potable water into their homes for drinking, bathing, irrigation and more. It generates 11 gallons of water a day on average. In addition, WaterSeer prices its devices at $134, creating global accessibility.

Other condensation extraction devices use fossil fuel-driven energy and chemical treatment, creating potable water and pollution. The WaterSeer systems generate zero emissions and organically filter drinkable substances. The National Peace Corps Association will use the device, delivering clean drinking water to struggling communities.

The Future of Water

Our current potable water extraction and generation methods exploit natural resources and create greenhouse gas emissions. We can expect to see an integration of renewable energy into the water sector in the coming years. The green technology aligns with Biden’s Build Back Better policy and the Paris Agreement.

Expanding clean energy-driven potable water production can reduce resource scarcity and shrink the global carbon footprint. It may also increase low-income communities’ accessibility to drinking water. Over time, our adoption of renewable energy can enhance resource conservation and climate change prevention efforts.

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