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Pumped hydro with desalination, powered by renewables

EDF and Oceanus plan to build a pumped hydro storage station and a desalination system powered by wind and solar. The system will use saltwater to produce hydropower during periods of high demand, while producing affordable freshwater.

Oceanus Energía y Agua de Sudamerica SpA, a unit of US infrastructure developer Oceanus Power & Water, has signed a deal with French energy giant EDF to build the world’s first integrated pumped hydro reverse osmosis clean energy system (IPHROCES).

The project, which will be built at an unspecified location in Chile’s Andes region, will combine a pumped hydro storage station that uses saltwater with a desalination system to be powered by wind and solar. The system will pump seawater into a storage reservoir at an upper level using conventional reversible pump-turbines, based on power produced by on-site renewable energy facilities or grid electricity.

The water in the upper reservoir will be sent back to the shore, where the reverse osmosis system is located, and used to produce freshwater. The water that is not used for desalination purposes will be used to produce hydropower for between eight and 12 hours per day during peak demand periods, with fast response times.

This hydraulic pressure eliminates the need for additional electricity to be provided to drive the desalination facility, greatly reducing both the capital expenditure and operational expenditure associated with standalone desalination facilities,” Oceanus said.

This process purportedly offers better brine management, as pumped storage outflows dilute desalination waste brine. The system also has a better energy footprint, as it reduces reverse osmosis energy consumption, Oceanus claimed.

“The result is a low salinity concentration mixture that is sent back to the ocean, minimizing the impacts on marine life,” the company said.

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In a report of the Chilean Ministry of Finance in 2018, Oceanus said that the energy consumption of the system would be the lowest in the market for reverse osmosis. The reverse osmosis process starts with around 400 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure, without the need for pumps.

The system will purportedly produce freshwater at a lower cost than other desalination projects that rely on reverse osmosis, due to lower operational costs, Oceanus said. It said that its pumped storage solution will generate power at peak times, with response times of less than five minutes, in order to ensure network stability.

“The integration of these technologies results in significant economic and environmental benefits that cannot be profitably achieved independently,” Oceanus said. “The IPHROCES concept is well suited to helping regions and countries proactively address some of the growing challenges posed by climate change, on a large scale and without the need for new, unproven, expensive technologies.”

Joan Leal, president of Oceanus Sudamerica, said that he has long wanted to deploy IPHROCES in Latin America to address water shortages.

“IPHROCES can significantly benefit the region by providing low-cost clean water and renewable energy, as well as helping to reactivate the local economy and create jobs,” he said.

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Source: pv magazine