The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is to provide $21 million to 14 research projects that will help reduce the cost of solar thermal desalination, DOE said in a statement.

Desalination is the process of treating seawater, brackish water and contaminated water for use in industrial water supplies or other needs.

Currently, desalination operations need to be grid connected, limiting their deployment. Solar thermal technology could allow the development of portable systems that do not need grid connection.

Key growth markets for desalination include municipal water production, agriculture, industrial processes and the purification of water produced during the extraction of natural resources.

For small-scale plants that process low volume, high-salinity water, such as brine from all angles operations, the research projects must aim to achieve a levelized cost of water (LCOW) of $1.50 per cubic meter, DOE said in a statement.

For large-scale plants that process high-volume, low-salinity water, for example seawater for a municipal utility, projects are expected to target (LCOW) of $0.50/cubic meter, it said.

The research projects are expected to take up to three years to complete and the funding is awarded through a 20% to 50% cost share arrangement.

«In total, the projects represent a public-private investment of nearly $30 million,» the DOE said.

New Energy Update