Solar PV technology may help solve water crisis problems – UN report

By Myrna M. Velasco

MUNICH, Germany – In sunny as well as archipelagic jurisdictions, solar photovoltaic (PV) technology solutions are similarly being dangled to help countries deal with their water crisis dilemmas.

In the recently concluded Intersolar Europe, a report released by the UN World Water Development has noted that PV-based solutions “make possible the transport, desalination and disinfection of water” primarily for off-grid and rural areas.

Via a process called “reverse osmosis,” it was explained that PV-supported systems can desalinate “brackish and salt water” which will then turn that into viable and clean drinking water for humans.

As noted by the European Union (EU), such solution has been piloted in Witsand, South Africa – wherein with the integration of solar energy system, they were able to produce 100 cubic meters of clean water per day.

“The EU is testing electrodialysis as a viable option for the desalination of salt and brackish water. Water disinfection systems can also be powered by solar energy,” it said. This is done under the auspices of Revived water project that comprises of 10 companies and research institutes organized by six European countries. It further qualified that “the most commonly available systems are off-grid water treatment systems that rely on a combination of UV disinfection and solar energy.”

Joachim Went, project leader at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany, indicated that a sizeable part of the global market is now establishing itself into adopting PV pumping systems to address the need for clean water sources.

As Went emphasized “solar-power pumping systems offer another invaluable approach to drinking water supply and agricultural irrigation in sunny and arid rural regions.” And this is seen scalable to similarly situated countries, like in the tropics where the Philippines is also positioned.

He further noted that “solar pumps are typically operated off-grid,” and oftentimes, these are integrated with general utility grid or as part of a mini-grid leaning on renewable energy technologies.

Both the EU and the United Nations acknowledged that lack of water supply or crisis situations remained a major problem for many countries globally – and solar PVs could just be the next big thing to address that.

To-date, it was noted that 2.1 billion people worldwide don’t have access to clean drinking water; while 3.6 billion people (or almost half of the total global population) live in areas which are threatened by water shortages.