Looking Backward to Move Forward: Solar Stills Could be the Low-Cost Leader in Water Desalination

Using a solar still to harness the sun's power to purify drinking water is an effective method in many areas of the world, yet it hasn't really taken off on a large scale. But one company believes that solar stills could become the leader in low-cost desalination, and even contribute to resurrecting the idea of the solar greenhouse as a way to put desert areas into food production.

The Suns River Still (SRS) is said to be able to increase the productivity of the standard solar still by a factor of 5, to run on 95 to 100% renewable energy, and to use feed streams from a variety of sources, including saline wells, wastewater, rivers and seas. The output is pure water, which can be used for both drinking and agriculture, and a possible future use for the technology is the solar greenhouse, which could help jumpstart a new aspect of agriculture by turning "coastal deserts into suitable sites for greenhouses"

This technology will be put to the test in the high desert of the southwestern United States, as Suns River recently received an $84,000 grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation for the "Installation and Operation of a Full Solar Distillation Desalination Unit" at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo New Mexico.

According to Suns River:

"Operating and maintenance costs for SRS are a fraction of that of current leading technologies. Extensive pilot plant testing has shown that SRS technology is completely scalable and can be built large for municipal and industrial needs and small for community and family needs."

The SRS is said to be able to produce around 20 liters of water per square meter of floor surface in ideal conditions, as compared to just 4 liters per square meter for standard solar stills, and because it can be operated almost entirely by renewable energy, has a very small negative effect on the environment.

Read more about the Suns River Still at their website.

Looking Backward to Move Forward: Solar Stills Could be the Low-Cost Leader in Water Desalination
Using solar stills to purify water isn't a new idea, but it's an effective one. And now new efforts are underway to use this old technology to help green the desert.

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