IIT-M team identifies 14 areas for solar desalination plants

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on June 14, 2020 Published on June 14, 2020

File Photo of IIT Madras campus.   -  The Hindu

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) have identified 14 locations on East and West coasts where community level solar desalination plants can be installed for providing clean drinking water.

Most hamlets on coastal areas get abundant sunlight most days of the year, but they suffer from acute drinking water shortage, forcing them to either buy potable water or drink unsafe water. Even though the government has been toying with the idea of setting up large-capacity desalination plants in many coastal regions major deterrents remained huge capital costs, energy consumption, and non-availability of land.

Now, a team of IIT-M researchers led by K Srinivas Reddy, professor at Department of Mechanical Engineering and Ligy Philip, professor of Civil Engineering, has found that solar energy can be tapped to provide high-quality drinking water at affordable costs to people living in these coastal areas.

Real-time assessment

The scientists assessed the technical, environmental and economic viability of a lab-made solar distillation plant in 20 coastal locations. This real-time performance assessment helped them come up with a detailed thermodynamic model to predict the behaviour of the unit in other locations. Among these coastal localities are Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi, Nagapatinam, Nellore, Vishakhapatanam, Panaji, Mumbai, Diu and Porbandar.

The performance of the solar distillation unit was measured on the basis of its yield (i.e. the number of litres of distillate produced per day), energy efficiency and availability efficiency. The study was recently published in the journal Solar Energy.

The scientists calculated that the cost of water thus produced could be in the range of $18.16-32.78 per kilolitre.

“We feel that local entrepreneurs can install such solar desalination plants producing high-quality water in the range of 100 kilolitres a day and sell it to the needy. Such plants can come up in most hamlets in these areas,” said Reddy.

Per the cost worked out by the scientists, a 1,000 litre per day (LPD), 10,000 LPD and 1,20,000 LPD plant will require an investment of ₹15.25 lakh, ₹25.50 lakh and ₹61.55 lakh, respectively.

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Published on June 14, 2020
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