Clean Water Solutions for Every Continent
According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 million deaths per year can be attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation and insufficient hygiene. Around the world, disputes over water, water scarcity and contamination and ecological degradation run rampant. At the heart of those problems lies the failure to provide the most basic water services for billions of people, along with the associated health issues that follow.
Today, 800 million people live under a threshold of “water stress,” according to UN Works. That number is set to rise to three billion in 2025, especially in Asia and Africa. In Jessica Yu's new documentary “Last Call at the Oasis,” unnerving statistics reveal that more than half of the world will lack access to adequate water by 2025. In the developed world, environmental activists and organizations are working together to spread the word, while celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio make a statement by nearly giving up showering altogether to conserve water. As for the third world, however, where the water crisis is already taking effect, innovators are taking direct action through some remarkable technologies.
Solar-Powered Water Filtration
DynGlobal, a US-based company dedicated to renewable energy and advanced technology solutions, has developed the world's first solar powered water filtration technologies to meet the challenges of the rapidly accelerating water crisis. Exceeding World Health Organization and Environmental Protection Agency Standards, the purification units remove bacteria, viruses, medical waste, and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. Ideal for areas lacking adequate infrastructure, transmission grids and direct access to safe water supplies, the self-sustaining, clean water system could drastically reduce the spread of diseases and improve mortality rates in developing countries.
A Wind Turbine that Produces Drinkable Water
French technology start-up Eole Water is working on a wind turbine in the United Arab Emirates that can produce hundreds of liters of water daily from its dry desert air. Tests from the water maker systems (WMS) have already proven that the device is capable of flowing 500-800 liters of water per day through the process of condensation.
Researchers hope to scale up the technology to produce over 1,000 liters a day with a tower-top system. After producing ideal results in the prototype stage, it is believed that the technology would work even better in areas offshore or near the coast where there are higher humidity and wind conditions.
The turbine features a 13 meter diameter rotor with a 12-tonne nacelle housing a direct-drive permanent-magnet generator protected by sand-shutters, cooling compressors, stainless-steel humidity condensers, an airflow regulator and a heat exchanger. Eole Water's WMS1000 can turn a day's wind energy into as much as 2,000 liters of drinking water by drawing wind through air regulators, which are then heated by the turbine's generator to become steam. The steam is then compressed and the moisture condenses, allowing for water to cascade down pipes within the turbine and into stainless steel tanks for purification.
According to its tests, the water meets drinking-quality standards set by the World Health Organization after a five-stage process. The leftover 30kW produced by the turbine powers the purification system.
For the Middle East, where water shortage is a reality, the technology could prove to be particularly beneficial for remote communities.
Solar-Powered Hamster Ball Purifies Water for Drinking
Inspired by the need for cheap and effective water purification systems needed in the third world, Industrial Design student Jonathan Liow developed the “Solarball” in 2008, earning global recognition. Using solar energy, the ball turns dirty water into pure, clean water through condensation occurring in the small device. Contaminants are left behind as unevaporated water.
One of the main challenges in the design was "to make the device more efficient than other products available, without making it too complicated, expensive, or technical," says Liow. The challenge now is to bring in funding to get the ball manufactured and distributed on a large scale.
For the rest of us in the industrialized world, paying closer attention to the amount of water used in our daily routine is a more realistic start. If that's not enough, offsetting your water footprint could be as simple as investing in some of the startups taking a more advanced approach.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly