Desalination is commonly used to convert salt water into fresh water for drinking and irrigation. In many coastal areas, desalinating water is the only way to provide people with fresh water.
Although the desalination it is a necessary process, it can be expensive and energy intensive. Some new technologies are being developed to allow us to desalinate water efficiently and cost-effectively. For example, using the same wave energy to reduce costs.
Wave energy is a renewable energy that has been used for years to power offshore equipment such as lighthouses and navigational buoys. Today it could come in handy for desalinating water and solving many problems.
Gaia, drinking water from wave motion
The startup Aquamarine Power developed a device called Oyster Wave Energy Converter which captures the energy from the waves and converts it into electricity, which can then be used to desalinate water.
Oyster has already been successfully tested in Scotland and Portugal, and is now being installed in Australia, to combat the country's water shortage: in the meantime, however, an even more effective solution already appears. It's from the Norwegian startup Ocean Oasis, and is about to be tested in the waters off Gran Canaria.
Gaia, this is the name of the prototype, is an offshore desalination device 10 meters high, 7 meters wide and weighing about 100 tons. It allows to desalinate sea water and pump it to coastal users. There's no better place than the Canaries to test it, because it's about a place with a structural water deficit. It rains little, the soil is very permeable and the groundwater has already been exploited too much.
Desalinating water, a great coup in a complicated scenario
Desalination, as mentioned, is a useful tool when it comes to providing drinking water to countries where supply is a problem, but the UN warns of the challenges still to be overcome to desalinate water "justly" of the oceans.
The fossil fuels used today make the situation worse, polluting coastal ecosystems and contributing to global warming. For this we need to push for sustainable desalination, and wave energy is still too little used. Last year in Europe just 2,2 megawatts were installed of tidal flow capacity. Of course it is a significant improvement compared to only 260 kilowatts in 2020, but these are still ridiculous figures: in the same period of time, Europe has prepared 17,4 gigawatts of wind capacity.
Let's keep an eye out for innovations like Gaia: if you have any, report them ruthlessly and they will always find space on this site: maybe in the future we will be able to drink in peace knowing that we are also helping the environment. Or at least we won't make it any worse.