^ Solar Water’s desalination domes use concentrated solar power to boil seawater and convert it to steam, which then condensates and is recollected as clean water.
Article by Daniel Sweet
According to the World Wildlife Foundation, some 1.1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water—a continuously increasing statistic due to climate change. Desalination technology has been touted as a potential solution to this crisis, but as David Reavley points out, harmful emissions associated with traditional desalination plants often undermine the intended benefits. As an alternative, Mr. Reavley’s company has developed a clean, emissions free process for desalinating water that is already gaining traction in the Middle East.
In a recent interview, Solar Water CEO David Reavley explained how the company’s desalination domes work, along with a short history of their development. “A desalination dome, in a sentence, uses concentrated solar power to boil seawater and convert it to steam, which then condensates and is recollected as clean water.”
“In practice,” Mr. Reavley continued, “a Solar Water installation comprises a dome structure (the upper dome) made of highly conductive steel struts and glass panels, built over a basin (the lower dome) into which seawater is pumped via glass enclosed aqueducts. These transparent aqueducts expose the seawater to the sun as it moves towards the dome, initiating a steady rise in temperature. Once the water reaches the interior of the dome, solar tracking mirrors (heliostats) positioned in a wide circle around the structure concentrate solar energy on the upper dome, converting the seawater into a mass of pressurized steam and is discharged out into through-puts and condenses into fresh water for human consumption and industrial purposes.
The brine gathers at the bottom of the cauldron is extracted and sold commercially.
Research and development
According to Mr. Reavley, the research and development behind the desalination dome went on for two and a half years, in association with Cranfield University in the UK, before commercialization. “After years of diligent research and experimentation, the Solar Water team decided there was sufficient academic science behind the idea, and in working with Cranfield University, a small model was created as a proof-of-concept.”
“Through several meetings, symposiums, trade fairs, and working close with Department of International Trade (DIT), Solar Water has secured two contracts, and we have a pipeline going from Egypt to the Philippines, Thailand to South Africa, and India to Bangladesh. Construction on our first dome, in Neom, Saudi Arabia, is now scheduled to start at the beginning of June.”
The Neom dome
The Neom project in Saudi Arabia features a 20m desalination dome intended to support workers involved in a large-scale construction project. Neom itself is a planned smart-city in the northwestern region of the country and will include multiple towns, ports, enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations. “Conversely, the water that will be produced in Aqaba, Jordan will be used for an industrial process that will enable the Jordan Phosphate Mines company to expand their product line, ultimately improving the economy of the country. In this way, Solar Water’s desalination technology is adaptable to the situation at hand, improving water access and economies.”
As well as being, cheaper to build, quicker to build and easier to build, the operating costs are greatly reduced for a number of reasons including: no fuel is consumed, no moving parts so lower maintenance cost therefore less engineering staff required.
The by-product of this process is salt, not brine which is pumped back into the sea destroying marine life. The salt has a commercial value which potentially covers the annual maintenance cost.
Our solution will aid the reverse of climate change and enable communities to thrive whether there will be urban, industrial, agricultural or tourism base.