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Co-ordination action for autonomous desalination units based on renewable energy systems

Final Report Summary - ADU-RES (Co-ordination Action for Autonomous Desalination Units Based on Renewable Energy Systems)

Many arid regions in Mediterranean countries have a great potential to cover part of their pressing water needs by renewable energy based desalination. However, the wide-scale implementation of this technology faces numerous technical, economic and policy barriers.

These barriers were studied and strategies to overcome them were developed and implemented within the ADU-RES project. ADU-RES aimed to push forward all necessary technical and policy developments to boost the implementation of renewable energy based desalination units in the Mediterranean region. There were two central objectives. The first was to analyse of the current status and develop recommendations for improvements on the technical and socioeconomic side, for mature and cost efficient renewable energy based desalination systems. Secondly there was a focus on political strategies for boosting ADU-RES implementation within the existing policy and legislative frameworks.

Various research exchange activities between relevant stakeholders took place. One tool that was developed for this purpose was the research matrix. This was an Excel based, easy to use database with recent publications related to autonomous desalination.

Major literature review and on-site research was performed in order to achieve a good overview of the technology status. A comprehensive report was produced covering the following fields:
- description of the available combinations of renewable energy systems with desalination technologies introducing the main technological features of each one;
- general guidelines for selecting the appropriate technology combination depending on the framework conditions and requirements of each case;
- an overview of selected plants worldwide focusing on the technological and financial performance of the units and the lessons learnt from their operation;
- a survey on the relevant software simulation tools;
- a review of research projects on the field.

A computer model was developed for use by project planners and decision makers on a local level. This programme was integrated into existing software called MEDWATER model. The model allowed the user to get also information on the water management options of the wider area.

Information was collected on potential consumers of the fresh water produced from autonomous desalination units. On-site research was carried out in the five target countries, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Palestine. Twenty consumer groups were analysed, four from each country.

A study of the financing mechanisms that could be used in small desalination projects was also performed. The study included a description and comparison of the various financing schemes, evaluation of these mechanisms for financing autonomous desalination projects and case studies of renewable energy powered desalination practices, with special focus on Mediterranean Partner Countries.

The potential for reducing the capital and running costs of installing and running small desalination plants powered by renewable energy was studied. Two parallel actions took place, first the various components of the desalination unit were analysed theoretically and then the process was simulated in a computer programme.

The possible environmental and social impacts of small desalination units were analysed based on a desk-based study and on-site research in four South-Mediterranean countries.

A simulation tool was developed and the energy performance of existing units was analysed. This allowed developing concrete recommendations regarding the potential for improving the designs in this respect.

The legislative and institutional framework conditions in relation to autonomous desalination applications were analysed in Spain, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Jordan as well as on the EU level.

Finally, based on the outcomes of the whole project and the contributions of the industry in the ADU-RES events, an exploitation plan was developed.

The major outcomes of the project were the following:
1) Knowledge of relevant R&D actions was scattered between institutes and companies in EU and the Mediterranean. ADU-RES compiled relevant data in comprehensive documents and Internet portals.
2) Basic technical requirements, like drastic cost reduction and improved reliability, had to be fulfilled before the commercial implementation of the technique is possible. ADU–RES developed concrete recommendations that contribute in the progress towards this objective.
3) Issues related to the environmental and social impacts of any activity are usually neglected causing harm to the environment and opposition of local populations ADU-RES focused its research on potential environmental, gender, health and social aspects of decentralised desalination and provided recommendations how to deal effectively with these issues.
4) The awareness of the technical options and the socio-economic barriers of RES based desalination units is rather limited between stakeholders in utilities, industry and policy ADU-RES enhanced the awareness for the desalination based on renewable energy sources, through several dissemination activities and its seminars.
5) Practical implementation is hindered by the lack of adequate financial resources ADU-RES analysed and define appropriate financial options and raised awareness among investors and financial institutions.
6) There are not many commercially operated plants that would raise the trust in the maturity and efficiency of decentralised desalination units. ADU-RES developed the exploitation plan that paths the way for planning of commercial size desalination units based on renewable energies in the Mediterranean.

ADU-RES organised its actions into a detailed work plan operating on four levels:
1. Consortium management (WP0).
2. Research coordination work (WP 1)
3. Thematic research and study work (WP 2 - WP 7)
4. Dissemination work (WP 8).

The main objective of WP0 was to ensure smooth implementation of all project activities and administrative obligations.

The main objective in WP1 was to create close ties of research exchange and communication between all partners. Thus, all the members of the consortium will work closely together for the achievement of the project research targets, using the knowledge pools of all the involved institutions. Finally, this WP also aimed to create the framework for enhanced communication and cooperation between all the related researchers worldwide.

The main objective of WP2 was to set the foundations for the next steps of the project by collecting past research, development and demonstration activities, and identifying key research results, research actors and demonstration sites.

The objective of WP3 was to study the needs and requirements of specific user groups in order to guide the technology developers into designs tailored to the needs of the end user. Additionally, as the end users were identified and studied, the required information for entities that want to enter this emerging market were collected and documented. An Excel model was developed that analyses the water supply by means of autonomous desalination units powered by renewable energy.

The objective of WP4 was to analyse the techno-economic performance of selected technologies and highlight the items where cost reductions could be realised either in a short term or in a longer term perspective. The steps followed for realising this objective were:
4.1 Evaluation of techno-economic performance of selected ADU technologies
4.2 Definition of cost reduction potential for ADU technologies
4.3 Collection of results of task 4.1 and 4.2 in a concise report.

The objective of WP5 was to analyse the environmental, gender and health issues related to the installation and operation of autonomous desalination units. The work has been separated in two main parts. The environmental study was based mainly on desk-based research. For the social part of the study, a questionnaire was developed and was widely distributed to local populations in the target countries.

WP6 aimed to integrate the results from WP2 - 5 and to compose a guideline for ADU-RES design. From the WP2 results the most promising strategies for coupling ADU with RES were summarised. The peculiarities resulting from intermittent or variable-rate operation of the RES and recommendations for dealing with them were described, as well as other important topics such as fouling, scaling, corrosion and post-treatment. The results from WP5 on environmental and social impacts were also condensed and complemented from other literature sources. In parallel, a computer simulation of PV and wind driven RO units was developed.

WP7 addressed the institutional and policy framework aspects. The relevant legislation and policy programmes in Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Jordan Morocco and Algeria as well as on an EU level were analysed.

The objective of the WP8 was to maximise the impact of the co-ordination action and the exploitation of results produced, in terms of awareness, information availability and market initiatives.

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