Water

Published on June 24th, 2009 | by Paul O'Callaghan

4

Water and Energy – A Crisis and An Opportunity

June 24th, 2009 by  

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This post was written by Paul O’Callaghan, founding CEO of the Clean Tech consultancy, O2 Environmental Inc. and lecturer on Sustainable Energy at the BC Institute of Technology.

inside renewable energy podcastAny plan to switch from gasoline to electricity or biofuels is a strategic decision to switch our dependence from foreign oil to domestic water’.

So says Dr. Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin in an interview with Steven Lacey on the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast this week.

Webber comments on the links between water and energy, the potential conflicts, but also about the potential opportunities which arise when you start to understand these links and realize that saving water saves energy, and saving energy saves water.

The Podcast picks up on some of the issues I wrote about in ‘Energy Vs Water’. Ironically the water footprint of driving your electric car, if the electricity is generated at a thermal power plant, is much greater than the water footprint if you were using conventional gasoline.

Wind and photo-voltaic generated electricity has a far lower water footprint than either fossil fuel or nuclear generated electricity. Biofuels such as corn ethanol and sugar cane, require an inordinate amount of water to produce a litre of fuel. (Check out Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States)

Brazil happens to get a lot of rain, so they have an ideal climate for growing a thirsty crop like sugar cane. Jatropha, which has been heralded as a ‘super biofuel’ – high yield and capable of growing on marginal land, recently came under fire as it came to light that it is a very thirsty plant. There are on-going efforts to genetically engineer it to use less water.

A few months ago, I wrote a piece on lawns and how in California, certain municipalities are now ‘buying back’ lawns from homeowners to try and reduce water use. Michael Webber describes the water-energy paradox excellently when he says we are ‘using blue gold (water) to grow the grass, and then using black gold (oil) as a fuel to cut it back down again, with a zero net gain in many cases for society.’

water technology markets key opportunities and emerging trendsThere is, however, an opportunity in all of this. Saved water equals saved energy, and saved energy equals saved water.  I have been looking at this closely in a new book on water technologies, “Water Technology Markets – key opportunities and emerging trends.”

I looked at a range of technologies which can generate energy from wastewater and also at technologies which can reduce the energy required to desalinate seawater. Microbial Fuel cells are a very good example of this. A microbial fuel cell can purify wastewater and, at the same time, generate electricity. It’s early days for this, but if successful it could turn wastewater treatment plants, which are currently power hungry, into net producers of power.  The company EMEFCY, came 4th in the Artemis Project Water Top 50 competition for its MEGAWATTER™  microbial fuel cell technology. Overall, there seems to be change afoot in the world of water. A change in the way we view water and use it. A shift away from the ‘use-once and dispose of’ model towards re-use, resource recovery, energy generation, energy efficiency. We are seeing an energy revolution taking place; the water revolution may be slower moving, but it is happening. A vision is emerging of a smart, more efficient water system and creating the technologies to make this smarter system a reality is where the BlueTech opportunity lies.

Photo Courtesy gfpeck via Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Paul O’ Callaghan is the founding CEO of the Clean Tech development consultancy O2 Environmental. Paul lectures on Environmental Protection technology at Kwantlen University College, is a Director with Ionic Water Technologies and an industry expert reviewer for Sustainable Development Technology Canada.





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About the Author

Paul O'Callaghan is the founder and CEO of BlueTech® Research, a subsidiary of O2 Environmental, which provides intelligence services to clients to identify key opportunities and trends in the global water industry. Paul holds a bachelor’s in biochemistry and a master’s degree in water resource management. He authored and addressed numerous papers on emerging treatment technologies, guest lectured at Harvard Business School, presented on the Discovery Channel, and delivered keynotes at numerous international events, including the Singapore International Water Week TechXchange Workshop.



  • Laschober Gerhard

    Gerhard Laschober Austria, Europe, gml@aon.at

    Water Innovation 2009

    Water harvest in considerable amounts from inexhaustible resources of drinking water in dry warm areas from the humidity of the air surrounding the earth’s surface which is warmed up during the last years because of the climate change, in addition, and thereby owns increased humidity capacity.

    The innovation is explained in 2 variations:

    Variation 1: The innovation consists of bringing the warm air up to the elevation of about 2400m, where it is cooled and subsequently, “sprayed” with cold water (condensed in the elevation of about 3800m) in addition to which, it is enriched with aerosol particles. Based on this principle, in taking the air down, the water condensation can take place.

    We would like to implement this vision by using techniques utilizing the law of physics describing how the warm air rises up while the cold air flows down and water condenses in the cooled air.

    Large amounts of surrounding warm air, from which by cooling in the height, water is condensed flows through the first piping into higher, cooler air layers, and serves at the same time as a carrier gas determining the buoyancy force of warm air balloons which are mutually positioned in predetermined distances one about another (in heights of about 1400, 2400 and 3800 meters above sea level). The lowest balloon carries two lightweight textile pipings of a large diameter. The middle balloon also carries these pipelines as well as a textile warm/cool exchanger which has partially itself balloon effect. The uppermost and smallest balloon carries its textile warm air feed pipe of a smaller diameter, as well as textile cooling surfaces with fine-meshed nets where water condenses on from the warm air streaming out of the balloon to the surrounding. The condensing water is collected by a textile funnel that is attached to the balloon, and then the water is escorted by a textile water pipe into the middle balloon.

    The prevailing amount of air flowing up through the first piping and used for a chemical water preparation is mixed with mineral molecules (dust) as well as aerosol molecules. This air is flowing through the middle balloon and afterwards it flows into the textile warm/cool exchanger where it cools down. Due to this cooling, the air can flow on its own through the second textile piping downwards. In these downwards piping immediately after the warm/cool exchanger cold water (condensed in the uppermost balloon) is sprayed in, so that from here on, an intense water condensation from the before warm air starts. These water harvest continues in an air-inflated tent on the earth’s surface wich is automatically carried from the downwards flowing air and equipped with technical resources for water harvest up to the exhaust of the “water-technical” exploited air. Water from water harvest is collected in reservoir.

    Variation 2:

    In a water condensing device of a simple construction type, drinking water is produced by the surrounding air condensation on the condensing surfaces whereas the air is drawn from higher, cooler air levels (between 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level).

    The cold air from high levels flows through lightweight piping made of textile cloth materials complete with cold insulation, onto condensing surfaces on the device to be cooled down. Through the heat/cold exchange process taking its course during the condensation, the previously cold air is warmed up and changing its density.

    The now warm air is flowing through the textile piping made of lightweight cloth, absorbing heat from its surroundings and sun rays, until it reaches the warm air balloon with its equipment and devices. The warm air balloon carries the lightweight piping and keeps it in an upright floatation.

    Warm air flowing into the insides of the warm air balloon serves as a carrier gas which keeps the balloon at the desired height of 2500-4000 meters above sea level in place.

    The free floating warm air balloon is fastened to a cable which is anchored to the earth surface and is also bearing the textile piping with its location determined by the cable length.

    Redundant service air acquired from the warm air balloon is disposed of with the help of disposal air balloon.

    To assure the autarkic operation of this water acquiring device, and for subsequent air warming when sun radiance is lacking, the originating currents will be used based on their energy-technical aspect.

    I inform you with pleasure after inquiry about details or other questions of this innovation protected under patent law as well as purchase or use.

    Best regards

    Gerhard Laschober

    Austria, Europe, gml@aon.at

  • Laschober Gerhard

    Gerhard Laschober Austria, Europe, gml@aon.at

    Water Innovation 2009

    Water harvest in considerable amounts from inexhaustible resources of drinking water in dry warm areas from the humidity of the air surrounding the earth’s surface which is warmed up during the last years because of the climate change, in addition, and thereby owns increased humidity capacity.

    The innovation is explained in 2 variations:

    Variation 1: The innovation consists of bringing the warm air up to the elevation of about 2400m, where it is cooled and subsequently, “sprayed” with cold water (condensed in the elevation of about 3800m) in addition to which, it is enriched with aerosol particles. Based on this principle, in taking the air down, the water condensation can take place.

    We would like to implement this vision by using techniques utilizing the law of physics describing how the warm air rises up while the cold air flows down and water condenses in the cooled air.

    Large amounts of surrounding warm air, from which by cooling in the height, water is condensed flows through the first piping into higher, cooler air layers, and serves at the same time as a carrier gas determining the buoyancy force of warm air balloons which are mutually positioned in predetermined distances one about another (in heights of about 1400, 2400 and 3800 meters above sea level). The lowest balloon carries two lightweight textile pipings of a large diameter. The middle balloon also carries these pipelines as well as a textile warm/cool exchanger which has partially itself balloon effect. The uppermost and smallest balloon carries its textile warm air feed pipe of a smaller diameter, as well as textile cooling surfaces with fine-meshed nets where water condenses on from the warm air streaming out of the balloon to the surrounding. The condensing water is collected by a textile funnel that is attached to the balloon, and then the water is escorted by a textile water pipe into the middle balloon.

    The prevailing amount of air flowing up through the first piping and used for a chemical water preparation is mixed with mineral molecules (dust) as well as aerosol molecules. This air is flowing through the middle balloon and afterwards it flows into the textile warm/cool exchanger where it cools down. Due to this cooling, the air can flow on its own through the second textile piping downwards. In these downwards piping immediately after the warm/cool exchanger cold water (condensed in the uppermost balloon) is sprayed in, so that from here on, an intense water condensation from the before warm air starts. These water harvest continues in an air-inflated tent on the earth’s surface wich is automatically carried from the downwards flowing air and equipped with technical resources for water harvest up to the exhaust of the “water-technical” exploited air. Water from water harvest is collected in reservoir.

    Variation 2:

    In a water condensing device of a simple construction type, drinking water is produced by the surrounding air condensation on the condensing surfaces whereas the air is drawn from higher, cooler air levels (between 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level).

    The cold air from high levels flows through lightweight piping made of textile cloth materials complete with cold insulation, onto condensing surfaces on the device to be cooled down. Through the heat/cold exchange process taking its course during the condensation, the previously cold air is warmed up and changing its density.

    The now warm air is flowing through the textile piping made of lightweight cloth, absorbing heat from its surroundings and sun rays, until it reaches the warm air balloon with its equipment and devices. The warm air balloon carries the lightweight piping and keeps it in an upright floatation.

    Warm air flowing into the insides of the warm air balloon serves as a carrier gas which keeps the balloon at the desired height of 2500-4000 meters above sea level in place.

    The free floating warm air balloon is fastened to a cable which is anchored to the earth surface and is also bearing the textile piping with its location determined by the cable length.

    Redundant service air acquired from the warm air balloon is disposed of with the help of disposal air balloon.

    To assure the autarkic operation of this water acquiring device, and for subsequent air warming when sun radiance is lacking, the originating currents will be used based on their energy-technical aspect.

    I inform you with pleasure after inquiry about details or other questions of this innovation protected under patent law as well as purchase or use.

    Best regards

    Gerhard Laschober

    Austria, Europe, gml@aon.at

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