Plant uses membrane distillation technology to enable desalination of water
In February 2014, the small island of Gulhi welcomed a membrane distillation plant, which uses membrane distillation technology that enables desalination of water for the 1,200 inhabitants and tourists on the island using waste heat from a local generator.
“We chose an environment with very difficult operating conditions to test the strength and reliability of our system. This is a viable solution for many coastal communities and inland areas with growing water problems through increasing salinity of groundwater,” said Florian Bollen, CEO of Aquiva Foundation.
Many hurdles had to be overcome: Getting approval for the unique small scale bottling facility; interruptions of the salt water supply because of problems with the borehole pump; water storage tanks that collapsed; and changes of the generators that supplied the waste heat to run the plant. None stopped the plant, which produces up to 10,000 litres of drinking water per day.
The most notable results of these first years of operation include the reliability of the desalination performing without downtimes despite very difficult conditions and no engineers to remedy problems; the plant’s energy efficiency; and the consistent high quality of the water being produced.
Today, the Island is celebrating the success of the plant with a small event: A new pipe from the desalination plant to the port has been put in use, so that the fisherman of the atoll can fill up their tanks locally with drinking water.
The water is being desalinated using the memsys membrane distillation technology by using the waste heat of the local diesel generators to power the desalination units. The improved cooling of the generator can even create efficiency gains on the electricity generation. This energy efficient system creates distilled water, which is then mineralized using local coral sand. The water is distributed in reusable bottles of 20 litres and 1-litre glass bottles to the local population, the school and hospital. Guesthouses and the port are getting the water via pipes.
The pricing of the water is very moderate to make it affordable to the population but covering the costs of the plant and operations.