GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of the General Electric Company, announced it is partnering with Texas Tech University to develop affordable water desalination systems to increase the quantity and quality of clean water available in arid areas around the U.S. and globally.
The GE-Texas Tech partnership will focus on the integration of renewable energy systems, such as wind turbines, with membrane desalination processes. The development of the integrated renewable energy-water system has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of creating new sources of freshwater from impaired resources, such as brackish water, by directly addressing the major component of operating cost of desalination systems – energy.
The partnership is part of GE’s company-wide ecomagination initiative, in which the company is working closely with its customer and other key partners to aggressively drive and bring to market new technologies that address pressing environmental challenges and growing water scarcity concerns.
Under the initiative, GE has pledged to more than double its level of investment in the development of cleaner energy technologies, from $700 million to $1.5 billion over the next five years.
“Up to fifty percent of the operating costs of desalination is derived from energy consumption,” said Dr. Minesh Shah, project leader, GE Global Research. " With the potential for large variability in energy costs due to fuel price volatility, desalination systems can have significant operational costs. The integration of wind energy provides an opportunity to mitigate this variability and allow for a lower cost desalination system."
"Developing cost effective technologies that address improving water quality and availability are of critical importance to many water stressed areas in this region," said Dr. Dean Smith, vice president for research at TTU. "We are pleased to partner with the GE Global Research Center to work together on this problem of both regional and world-wide importance."
The focus of the research partnership will be the integrated control and optimization of the two systems to improve operations, reduce capital cost and reduce energy consumption. This would help to improve the commercialization of a renewable energy-water system. The program also aims to develop a commercial scale demonstration within the next several years.