Study offers new options for urban water and energy management

March 9, 2016

Renewable power generated from desalination plants and other existing infrastructure could bring economic and environmental benefits to big cities.

BRISBANE, Australia — March 3, 2016 — Desalination plants are a hidden asset that can be used to generate renewable hydropower, according to an Australian study.

Researchers at Griffith University in Queensland said that renewable power generated from desalination plants and other existing infrastructure would bring economic and environmental benefits to big cities.

Publishing their findings in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the researchers said that there is particular merit in integrating infrequently used desalination plants into city water supply networks and planning agendas.

“Integrated asset management using existing infrastructure is a calculated way of meeting the need for more efficient water management, including flood mitigation and water and energy storage,” said project leader Dr. Oz Sahin, from Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Climate Change Response Program.

Cities in Australia started building desalination plants in 2002 in response to a drought.

“Perth exhibited better planning by building plants earlier and more economically. Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast followed and they were more costly and at times controversial,” Dr. Sahin said.

“However, just because circumstances mean the plants are spending long periods on standby, doesn’t mean they cannot be used in other beneficial ways.”

The new study shows that it is worth considering what infrastructure is already there and how it can be used, Dr. Sahin explained.

“For example, desalination plants can generate renewable hydropower for those times of peak demand in our cities by increasing supply during those hours.

“The benefits from this approach would include reductions in water costs for consumers and overheads for government and industry.”

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