The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), however, was developing its own small boat at the same time as competitors, known as the hydraulic and electric reverse osmosis (HERO) wave energy converter (WEC) device, which was designed in part to reduce the risk associated with wave energy technology.
According to Scott Jenne, a multidisciplinary research engineer at NREL, wave energy is still a relatively new technology with a steep learning curve. By making the design available as open source, it will be easier for others to build upon the learning curve.
The competition’s goal was to develop a swiftly deployable, floatable desalination ship that can use wave energy to quickly transform salt water into drinking water in emergency situations. The market for desalination is competitive, with 114 participants.
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Desalination of water may be a crucial technological advancement for a time when freshwater supplies are becoming increasingly scarce. Even though this amount of water is produced on a massive scale, the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in San Diego produces around one million gallons of drinking water daily.
Small-scale, relatively simple-to-install devices are what NREL and its rivals are creating. And it might assist with the city’s water requirements.
Creating drinkable water from the ocean requires a lot of energy, but using wave energy offers the chance to do so at a low cost with no emissions. Additionally, the natural mixing provided by a wave climate makes brine discharge and other environmental effects much easier to manage than with some other desalination technologies.
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With plans for a third deployment, NREL took the craft back out into the ocean off the coast of North Carolina in August 2022 to test out new technology. Until modest desalination units can be utilized on a regular basis, there is still much to learn.
We are also researching what is needed for technologies that would be more permanent installations for applications like municipal water supply they’ll need to be much larger and much more reliable in order to be cost-competitive, said Jenne.
Finding ways to scale up the gadget is one of the other objectives of the NREL project.
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According to Jenne, wave energy technologies actually become more effective as you expand their size, but only to a certain degree. An ideal WEC would be 5–10 times larger than ours. Adding additional them to an array is another option (like a wind farm). Systems for desalination can be scaled very easily by simply adding more membranes.
For now, NREL will put its device back out into the ocean off of North Carolina, as the lab, along with private companies, figures out a way to bring fresh drinking water at small scales to the communities that need it.