The Energy-Water Nexus: Spatially-Resolved Analysis of the Potential for Desalinating Brackish Groundwater by Use of Solar Energy

J.B. Kjellsson and M.E. Webber, June 2015 (Citation)


This research looks at coupling desalination with renewable energy sources to create a high-value product (treated water) from two low value resources (brackish groundwater and intermittent solar energy). Desalination of brackish groundwater is already being considered as a potential new water supply in Texas. This research uses Texas as a testbed for spatially-resolved analysis techniques while considering depth to brackish groundwater, water quality, and solar radiation across Texas to determine the locations with the best potential for integrating solar energy with brackish groundwater desalination. The framework presented herein can be useful for policymakers, regional planners, and project developers as they consider where to site desalination facilities coupled with solar photovoltaics. Results suggest that the northwestern region of Texas—with abundant sunshine and groundwater at relatively shallow depths and low salinity in areas with freshwater scarcity—has the highest potential for solar powered desalination. The range in capacity for solar photovoltaic powered reverse osmosis desalination was found to be 1.56 × 10—6 to 2.93 × 10—5 cubic meters of water per second per square meter of solar panel (m3/s/m2).


J.B. Kjellsson and M.E. Webber, “The Energy-Water Nexus: Spatially-resolved analysis of the potential for desalinating brackish groundwater by use of solar energy,” Resources: Special Issue on Groundwater Quantity and Quality (2015).