On the importance of renewable energy desalination for future agriculture

The REvivED water project has been demonstrating just how achievable a new generation of high-efficiency/low power desalination technology is. In industrial-sized units tested in Spain and the Netherlands, as well as in the solar-powered units that have been piloted across East Africa and India, this project has sought to not only demonstrate the technological readiness of these pilots but also give an idea of how they may one day be fully implemented.

Currently much of the focus in this area is on small scale rural applications where the need is currently greatest. However a recent paper by Upeksha Caldera and Christian Breyer of LUT University (Caldera, U., & Breyer, C. (2019). Assessing the potential for renewable energy powered desalination for the global irrigation sector. Science of The Total Environment694, 133598) illustrates the importance of expanding this sector of research and development before the need becomes even more critical. Their study found "that as conventional water prices increase, renewable energy based seawater reverse osmosis desalination, [will offer] a cost effective water supply for the irrigation sector." As the global demand for food production increases over the next decades by an estimated 70%, demand for advanced renewable energy driven desalination technologies will become paramount.

Research such as that being carried out by REvivED water project therefore may provide a more prescient glimpse into the future than we realise. One in which the technologies being pioneered now may underpin a significant portion of the world's food supply.