DOE Awards $21 Million For Solar Thermal Desalination Projects


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $21 million for new projects to advance solar thermal desalination technologies.

The 14 projects are focused on reducing the cost of solar thermal desalination and helping the technology reach new markets, including to areas that are not connected to the electric grid, according to the DOE.

Desalination treats seawater, brackish water and contaminated water for use in municipal and industrial water supplies or for other reclamation needs. Today’s desalination operations need to be grid-connected, limiting their applications to areas with electricity access, the DOE explains. Solar thermal power, which concentrates sunlight and converts it into heat, has the potential to expand access to desalination by enabling smaller, more portable systems that don’t have to be grid-connected, the agency says.

Projects that address challenges for small-scale plants that process low-volume, high-salinity water, such as brine from oil and gas operations, target a levelized cost of water (LCOW) of $1.50 per cubic meter. Projects that address challenges for large-scale plants that process high-volume, low-salinity water, such as sea water for a municipal utility, are expected to target an LCOW of $0.50 per cubic meter.

The awardees represent industry, laboratory and university researchers:

  • Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. (Lancaster, Pa.): $1.5 million
  • Columbia University (New York City): $1 million
  • Fraunhofer USA Center for Energy Innovation (Storrs, Conn.): $800,000
  • GreenBlu (Hamilton, N.J.): $1.6 million
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, Calif.): $800,000
  • Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii): $2 million
  • Oregon State University (Bend, Ore.): $2 million
  • University of California: Los Angeles: $2 million
  • University of California: Merced (Merced, Calif.): $1.1 million
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, Ill.): $1.6 million
  • University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, N.D.): $2 million
  • Rice University (Houston) $1.7 million
  • SkyFuel, Inc (Lakewood, Colo.): $1.6 million
  • Sunvapor, Inc. (Livermore, Calif.): $1.5 million

The projects are anticipated to last up to three years and will be awarded as cooperative agreements – requiring 20%-50% cost share. Cost-share requirements ensure maximum return on taxpayer-funded research and development, says the DOE. In total, the projects represent a public-private investment of nearly $30 million.

More information on the projects can be found here.

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