Bureau of Reclamation Banner

Renewable Energy Evaluation for Zero Liquid Discharge Processes

Project ID: 7399
Principal Investigator: Katherine Guerra
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Priority Area Assignments: 2012 (Advanced Water Treatment), 2013 (Advanced Water Treatment)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2012 and 2013
Keywords: inland brackish water, desalination, zero liquid discharge, renewable energy

Research Question

The question addressed by this project is: "How can renewable energy be best incorporated into ZLD processes?"

Increasing demands for potable water in the western U.S. have forced drinking water utilities to consider water supply from lower quality sources such as brackish ground water. These lower quality sources require the use of advanced treatment technologies, such as reverse osmosis (RO) or nanofiltration (NF) membranes, to treat the water to a level suitable for human consumption. Presently, utilities have been reluctant to undertake RO or NF projects due to uncertainty surrounding the availability of practical disposal options for the concentrate from those processes. The ultimate disposal is through complete evaporation using various zero liquid discharge (ZLD) processes to separate out marketable salts or produce a solid waste product. ZLD is very energy intensive. In this project we will evaluate how the water source affects the level of energy needed and how renewable energy sources can be integrated into the process most efficiently.

This research will investigate integration of alternative energy sources for two zZLD desalination facilities for potential reduction of global climate change impacts. The primary focus of this power reduction demonstration project is advanced water treatment using alternative energy sources such as wind and solar energy. By reducing power required for RO or NF systems during peak periods of power use, additional energy can be conserved. Promising examples of reduced power consumption of RO or NF systems while improving water quality would be shared with public utilities and other federal and State agencies.

Need and Benefit

There is a research need to integrate renewable energy sources at advanced water treatment facilities that have large continual energy consumption. Basic energy data from concentrate minimization from RO and NF projects are currently lacking. Also, integrating renewable energy resources into existing facilities is challenging. Impacts of global climate change need to be reduced by reducing energy consumption. Utilities and agencies need to lead this effort.

The primary benefit of this research will be energy-based information and a description of the challenges of integrating renewable energy into advanced water treatment processes. Auxiliary benefits might include identification of potential strategies for optimization of existing processes at advanced water treatment facilities.

Contributing Partners

None

Research Products

News releases for the Denver News, Final report, and paper submitted to a peer reviewed journal. Our target is to also produce a development proposal for a better method for incorporating renewable energy into advanced treatment processes for 2013.

This information was last updated on April 18, 2014
Contact the Research and Development Office with questions or comments about this page