Researchers at Texas A&M University have come up with an economical, green solution that can help underprivileged communities with their water and electricity needs.
Their standalone water-energy nanogrid consists of a purification system that uses solar energy to decontaminate water. The setup, they said, is mathematically tuned to use solar energy optimally so that the water filtration is unhindered by the fluctuations of solar energy during the course of the day.
“To serve areas that are remote and isolated, the infrastructural cost of laying down new water pipes or setting up an electricity grid is enormous and can take a very long time,” said Le Xie, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “To overcome these hurdles, we presented a cost-effective solution that uses solar energy to both purify water and generate electricity for basic household use.”
The researchers have described their technology in the journal Applied Energy.
In the United States, the colonias represent one of the many rural, low-income communities along the Texas-Mexico border where basic resources are not readily available. Since the colonias are remote, their residents, consisting of mainly migrant workers, are isolated from major utility and water treatment facilities and thus have limited means for electricity and safe drinking water. Methods like boiling water can be cost-prohibitive and inadequate.
“Boiling water is one of the most expensive ways of decontamination because it takes a lot of energy to heat water,” said Shankar Chellam, professor in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Also, although boiling gets rid of biological contaminants, it does not remove many chemical contaminants. We needed a solution that could address both these problems at the same time.”
An efficient way to decontaminate water is by passing it through purification systems. These machines use pumps to push water through a filter. However, the pumps require electricity, which is again scarce in the colonias. So, the researchers looked for a solution that would help with both the power and water requirements of the colonia residents.
First, to cut the dependence on centralized sources of power and water, Xie, Chellam and their team conceptualized an energy-water nanogrid, which is a standalone, truck-mountable filtration system with pumps that could run on solar-generated electricity. Next, they developed a cost-minimization…