Rackam is looking for a demonstration site for its solar desalination solution

solar desalinisation

The Sherbrooke-based company is ready to develop a first solar desalination demonstration project to be powered by their Parabolic Solar Concentration (CSP) technologies. They are therefore actively seeking a site, engineering firms and equipment manufacturers interested in partaking in this new technological solution. There are several justifications to this approach; mainly the fact that this market is very promising, that more and more players have significant needs in this field as well as the fact that financial aid is now available for the development of such projects.                                                                                                            

The promising solar desalination market                                                    

Global investment in desalination exceeded $ 86 billion between 2010 and 2016 and is expected to increase in the future. For example; Saudi Arabia alone is planning to invest 50 billion euros in desalination in the next 5 years. Investments in this sector are therefore exploding and major business opportunities currently exist in the countries of the Maghreb, the Gulf countries, Africa, Asia and also particularly in California.

Who needs desalination? 


 Countries with limited access to sources of drinking water are already using a considerable amount of desalination techniques. But more and more, the coastal populations of the planet are also experiencing problems with salt infiltration in their wells due to the fact that as the aquifers are disintegrating; the quantities of water pumped into the ground are not allowing for the natural recharge and are therefore favouring saline intrusion. As a result, fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce: desalination and water treatment techniques are becoming increasingly indispensable for coastal environments, where the majority of the world's population lives. Municipalities will therefore be continuously investing in these processes. Between 2016 and 2020, $ 58 billion US are expected to be invested by municipalities in the public-private partnerships (PPP) market in the fields of desalination and wastewater treatment. Municipalities are increasingly anxious to become competitive with their budgets in the water sector and are therefore adopting the already proven, effective private sector solutions in this area.

The industry

The oil industry, the shale gas industry and mines all use a lot of water for their processes and produce millions of liters of brackish water each year. The so-called non-conventional hydrocarbon extraction sector in particular uses a lot of water and in turn generates an enormous amount of salt water in its extraction process. This water is very often re-injected into deep wells, but many of these are already stressed and are now reaching their limits. Several regions have restricted permits for the reintroduction of brackish water into these deep wells and these are in turn becoming increasingly scarce. Several treatment methods are being studied for the aforementioned water, as they have the merit of limiting the need for fresh water. These methods include, among others; heat treatment of wastewater and of the brackish water produced. This is usually expensive, but Rackam is now working to make these wastewater treatment techniques accessible thanks to the use of solar heat.

Similar problems with fresh water supply also occur in large cooling towers used for public buildings or large plants. Often, these cooling towers feed on lakes or pump water from the ground, but the scarcity of water causes states to restrict access to these resources. Water treatment or desalination is yet again the solution for these industries. Rackam is also working on this issue by proposing solar desalination solutions that support existing infrastructures in order to reduce the costs of water and limit the need for drinking water.

 Insular Environments

 Finally, the islands are also increasingly turning to desalination and treatment of wastewater using renewable energy. Island populations are faced with a lack of fresh water in relation to their populations, and given the excessive cost of imported energy as well as the availability of abundant resources in renewable energy: island communities are increasingly relying on desalination solutions which function on renewable energy. International resolutions and major funding have been committed to make the islands make a shift towards renewable energies by 2020.

With the global increase in the cost of fossil fuels and the reduction in the cost of solar energy, the market for desalination and sewage treatment powered by solar energy will develop considerably in the near future. Rackam's desalination and solar water treatment technology consequently has enormous business potential.

 Possible financial support 

Currently, several forms of financial support are available in the context of proceeding with such a business opportunity with Canadian company Rackam.


The demonstration that Rackam is proposing

Rackam is offering multiple solutions for desalination and solar water treatment with different types of modules which can be installed in several combinations, in order to maximize the production of each project. Rackam's solution is therefore very effective for small and medium projects due to the fact that it can very easily be customized.

In fact, in addition to thermal process modules such as multiple effect distillation (MED) and MSF (Multi Stage Flash), a RO (reverse osmosis) module could be added to increase the efficiency of the water treatment process. This unique combination would make it possible to create zero liquid discharge process (no liquid residue) and thus not produce concentrated brackish water at the outlet of the process such as is the case in standard desalination plants, but rather a solid residue of salt. Finally, to diversify the demonstration, a Rankine type module could also be added to allow the production of electricity with the surplus of solar energy. 

Moreover, in the solution proposed by Rackam, the storage of thermal energy in water tanks allows for great flexibility in the size of the production units: even after sunset or with less available sunshine, the thermal energy accumulated in the tanks makes it possible to continue to treat the waste water continuously, which in turn makes it possible to reduce the size of the installations. As an example, a solar power plant with a nominal power of 2MW equipped with a MED unit and 8 hours of thermal storage (located in water tanks) could produce up to 200 m3 of drinking water per day in a region showing a solar resource of 2000kWh / m2 / year. The total area of the sensors would be about 4500 m2. The facility would include Rackam's solar concentration panels, the MED process and the storage unit.

This type of project could represent an excellent demonstration opportunity that would be eligible for various types of funding. The treated water could then be re-used for human consumption, or else for agricultural or industrial processes depending on the project.

Where to construct this demonstration?

 In addition to being able to carry out this showcase in Canada, Rackam already has contacts with potential customers in Morocco, South Africa, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and in insular environments. The showcase site could therefore be located in one of the aforementioned geographical areas or any other relevant area.  

For more information:

Jacques-Alexandre Fortin VP and Sales Manager, Rackam:  ja.fortin@rackam.com