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Journal of Integrative Agriculture

2013, 12(8): 1357-1362

Journal of Integrative Agriculture 2013, 12(8): 1357-1362 August 2013 RESEARCH ARTICLE The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven

August 2013

RESEARCH ARTICLE

 

The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven Reverse Osmosis System for Water Desalination and Aquaculture Production

Clark C K Liu

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Water Re sources Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, HI 96822, USA

Abstract

Water and energy are closely linked natural resources - the transportation, treatment, and distribution of water depends on low-cost energy; while power generation requires large volumes of water. Seawater desalination is a mature technology for increasing freshwater supply, but it is essentially a trade of energy for freshwater and is not a viable solution for regions where both water and energy are in short supply. This paper discusses the development and application of a renewable-energy-driven reverse osmosis (RO) system for water desalination and the treatment and reuse of aquaculture wastewater. The system consists of (1) a wind-driven pumping subsystem, (2) a pressure-driven RO membrane desalination subsystem, and (3) a solar-driven feedback control module. The results of the pilot experiments indicated that the system, operated under wind speeds of 3 m s -1 or higher, can be used for brackish water desalination by reducing the salinity of feedwater with total dissolved solids (TDS) of over 3 000 mg L -1 to product water or permeate with a TDS of 200 mg L -1 or less. Results of the pilot experiments also indicated that the system can remove up to 97% of the nitrogenous wastes from the fish pond effluent and can recover and reuse up to 56% of the freshwater supply for fish pond operation.

Key words: renewable energy, desalination, pressure-driven membrane processes, aquaculture, fish pond

INTRODUCTION

Existing water desalination processes are based on ei- ther thermal or membrane technology. Because of rapid advancements of membrane technology, most water desalination plants built in the last 30 years in the USA used membrane technology such as reverse osmosis (RO), electrodialysis, and nanofiltration (Glueckstern 1995; Liu and Park 2008). A major problem associated with membrane desali- nation is high energy consumption. To address this problem, efforts have been made to develop cost-ef- fective desalination systems that use brackish water instead of seawater as feedwater and use renewable

Received 17 October, 2012

Accepted 10 January, 2013

Correspondence Clark C K Liu, Tel: +1-808-9567658, E-mail: clarkliu@hawaii.edu

energy instead of electricity to power the system op- eration (Feron 1985; Robinson et al. 1992; Weiner et al. 2001; Kershman et al . 2002; Liu et al . 2002). The osmotic pressure of seawater at a total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration of 35 000 mg L -1 is about 2 700 kPa (395 psi). Use of brackish water as feedwater for the RO desalination process would provide a smaller osmotic pressure and thus, brackish water desalination would require smaller applied pressure than seawater desalination - the osmotic pressure of brackish water at a TDS concentration of 3 000 mg L -1 is approximately 230 kPa (30 psi). Another major problem associated with membrane desalination is membrane fouling. The fouling problem is caused by the plugging of membrane surfaces by

© 2013, CAAS. All rights reserved. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

doi:10.1016/S2095-3119(13)60541-9

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organic and inorganic substances present in the feedwater. Methods of pretreatment and new fouling resistant membrane materials are being developed by studying the physicochemical and biological interac- tions between the membrane surface and foulants and anti-fouling agents (Mulder 1996; Liu and Park 2008). Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production industry because of significant increases in demand for fish and seafood throughout the world. Aquaculture is growing more rapidly than any other segment of the animal culture industry. In 2000, the total aquaculture production (including aquatic plants) was 45.7 million metric tons and valued at US$ 56.5 billion (FAO 2002). Concerns are evoked about the possible effects of aquaculture wastewater on both productivity in aquac- ulture ponds and on ambient aquatic ecosystem. Nitrog- enous compounds are major contaminants in aquacul- ture wastewater. Ammonia is the principal nitrogenous waste produced by fishes. Short-term exposure of fishes to high concentration of ammonia causes increased gill ventilation, hyper excitability, loss of equilibrium, convulsions, and then death. Chronic exposure of fishes to a lesser concentration of ammonia include tissue damage, decrease in reproductive capacity (number of eggs produced, egg viability, delay in spawning), de- crease in growth, and increase in susceptibility to dis- ease (Thurston et al. 1986). Development of cost-ef- fective technology for aquaculture wastewater treatment, especially nitrogen removal, is one of the most important factors for achieving a profitable and sustainable aquac- ulture industry in many parts of the world. Aquaculture wastewater can be treated by using biofilters, including trickling filters, submerged filters, rotating media filters, fluidized bed filters and low- density media filters (Jewell and Cummings 1990; Abeysinghe et al . 1996; Hargrove et al . 1996; Ng et al . 1996; Twarowska et al . 1997). There are, however, significant drawbacks of using biofilters to treat aquaculture wastewater, including excessive sludge production, unstable performance, and nitrate accumulation. In this study, after successfully test- ing the use of the renewable-energy-driven RO sys- tem for water desalination, the system was further modified and tested as a cost-effective and environ- ment-friendly method for removing nitrogenous wastes from culture water of tilapia.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

System performance of wind energy conversion

The overall efficiency η of a windmill/pump is defined as the ratio of energy delivered to the water to the avail- able wind energy (Kiranoudis et al. 1997):

1358 Clark C K Liu organic and inorganic substances present in the feedwater. Methods of pretreatment

(1)

Where ρ a =air density (kg m -3 ), A=rotor swept area (m 2 ), and U=wind speed (m s -1 ), ρ w =water density (kg m -3 ), g =acceleration of gravity (m s -2 ), Q w =water flow rate (m 3 s -1 ), and H=hydraulic head (m). Fig. 1 shows the overall efficiency of wind energy conversion versus wind speed, based on field data collected by this study. The observed data (dots) are correlated well with a regression curve, which can be expressed by the fol- lowing empirical equation:

1358 Clark C K Liu organic and inorganic substances present in the feedwater. Methods of pretreatment

(2)

System performance and water desalination

System desalination performance is illustrated in Fig. 2. Fig. 2-A shows the flow rate and salinity of the permeate as a function of wind speed, with a constant feedwater salinity of 2 500 mg L -1 and a constant oper- ating pressure of 621 kPa (90 psi). The system can be operated at a wind speed as low as 3 m s -1 , a wind speed at which a permeate flow of 0.133 m 3 h -1 with a

1358 Clark C K Liu organic and inorganic substances present in the feedwater. Methods of pretreatment

Fig. 1 Overall system efficiency of wind energy conversion versus wind speed.

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The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven Reverse Osmosis System for Water Desalination and Aquaculture

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The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven Reverse Osmosis System for Water Desalination and Aquaculture 1359 Fig. 2

Fig. 2 System performance in water desalination. A, wind speed and permeate flow and salinity. B, pressure and permeate flow and salinity.

salinity of 146 mg L -1 can be produced. Fig. 2-B shows the flow rate and salinity of permeate as a function of operating pressure, with a constant wind speed of 6 m s -1 and a feedwater salinity of 2 500 mg L -1 . Under these conditions, a permeate flow of 0.10 m 3 h -1 with a salinity of 175 mg L -1 can be produced under a pres- sure of 517 kPa (75 psi). By increasing the operating pressure to 862 kPa (125 psi), a permeate flow of 0.20 m 3 h -1 with a salinity of 110 mg L -1 can be produced. Therefore, the system is relatively sensitive to the op- erating pressure. A pilot plant of renewable energy driven desalination, to be located on Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii, was de- signed based on experimental data. The pilot plant of renewable energy-driven RO desalination was designed by scaling up the testing system, which can be achieved by using 20-ft (6.14-m) windmills and by arranging multi-units of windmill/pump and membrane process- ing in parallel and in series (Fig. 3). A cost-analysis indi- cated that the pilot plant can produce freshwater at a rate of 1 285 000 gallons per year, at a cost of US$ 5.40 per 1 000 gallons.

System performance of aquaculture wastewater treatment

The system performances under two categories of wind speed and discharging frequency are shown in Fig. 4. The high operation efficiency zone for water recovery rate in the system was determined. The recovery rate was below 65% for the 0-h discharging period that increased slowly with wind, which included very strong winds. In comparison, the water recovery rate for 2-

h, 4-h, and 6-h discharging periods underwent rela- tively faster increases with wind and had a tendency to approach the apparent maximum value. Among the three recovery rate curves, 2-h discharging period has a sharper slope than the others. There was no obvious difference on the slope changes between the 4-h and 6- h recovery rate curves. There was an upper limit in increased water recov- ery rate in the system either by increasing the wind speed or by selecting alternatives for the concentrate

The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven Reverse Osmosis System for Water Desalination and Aquaculture 1359 Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Schematic of conceptual design of a renewable-energy-

driven RO desalination pilot plant.

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1360 Clark C K Liu Fig. 4 System performance in aquaculture wastewater treatment under varying wind

Fig. 4 System performance in aquaculture wastewater treatment under varying wind speeds and effluent discharge periods.

discharging periods. The water recovery rate for the 4-h and 6-h modes seemed to reach more than 90%; after approximately 93% water recovery, the system stabilized with no further recovery rate expected. However, for the 2-h mode, 85% water recovery was difficult to attain. Although the 6-h and 4-h modes had similar performances in the high efficient zone (wind speed >5 m s -1 ), the 6-h functioned at a slightly higher efficiency. This was one of the factors why the 6-h discharging mode was selected as the opera- tion mode.

CONCLUSION

In this study, a brackish water desalination system was developed and tested. The system was driven entirely by renewable energy, which used wind energy to drive the RO desalination process and used solar energy to drive the system operating control module. With a two- stage wind-driven pumping mechanism, the system can generate and maintain two different levels of operating water pressure for the pretreatment process and the RO process. The control module operated the system and allowed continuous operation under varying wind speeds and feedwater salinity. The system can produce freshwater at a total dis- solved solids (TDS) of less than 200 mg L -1 from brackish feedwater with a TDS greater than 3 000 mg L -1 . Data collected in field experiments showed that the system can be operated under mild wind speeds of 3.0 m s -1 or higher, with an average rejection rate

of 94%, and an average recovery ratio of 25%. A cost analysis for a pilot plant indicated that brackish water desalination was a viable water supply alterna- tive for the Pacific Islands and other remote communities. This study also showed that the renewable-energy- driven RO system was a technically feasible and envi- ronment friendly method of wastewater treatment and reuse in aquaculture production. The system can be operated at the average wind speed as low as 3.0 m s -1 . With an average wind speed of 5.0 m s -1 or more, the system worked continuously. It can generate and re- cycle freshwater at a flow rate ranging from 227.8 to 366.5 L h -1 , depending on the wind speed. Approxi- mately 70 to 84% of aquaculture wastewater can be recycled. The system was capable of removing 90 to 97% of nitrogenous waste present in the tilapia culture effluents, while the average recovery rate was about 40 to 56%. Agricultural irrigation water use is often associated with the problems of (1) the high rate of energy consumption, especially when long distance water trans- port or deep groundwater pumping is involved; and (2) the excessive salt content in source water. The renew- able-energy-driven RO system developed by this study was also useful in certain areas where the surface fresh- water was limited, but agricultural and food produc- tions were necessary. This system was evaluated as part of an irrigation project in South Kona, Hawaii to reduce the salt content in source water and to reduce the pumping cost (Liu 2012). The project feasibility analysis indicated that this system can pump 3 million gallons per day (mgd) of freshwater from a coastal aquifer to irrigate 1 300 acres of coffee and other crops in the project area.

SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT

System development for water desalination

The prototype renewable-energy-driven RO desalina- tion system developed by the University of Hawaii, USA, on Coconut Island consisted of two subsystems: 1) a wind-energy conversion subsystem, and 2) an RO pro- cess subsystem (Fig. 5). In the wind-energy conver- sion subsystem, a pump coupled with a multi-blade

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The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven Reverse Osmosis System for Water Desalination and Aquaculture

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windmill pressurized the feedwater. The overall sys- tem inputs were wind and feedwater, and the system outputs were permeate and brine. A control module data, which consisted of several acquisition and feed- back control devices, was developed (Liu 2009). Feedwater, which was pressurized by a wind pump, flows into a pressure stabilizer that reduced large fluc- tuations of pressure and flow rate. The relatively stable feedwater flowed out of the stabilizer and then passed through a pretreatment unit before entering the RO membrane. A 4.3-m (14-ft) diameter multi-blade windmill in- stalled on a 9-m-tall tower drives a piston pump with a 275-mm (11-inch) stroke and 980-cm 3 effective displacement. Both the windmill and piston pump were manufactured by Dempster Inc. A stabilizer was used to maintain a steady feedwater flow by reducing excessive fluctuastion of the pressure and the flow rate. The stabilizer developed by the Uni- versity of Hawaii was similar to hydro-pneumatic pressure tank with a 0.3-m 3 inner volume; it yielded a mean hydraulic detention time of about 30 min, under design conditions. An ultra low-pressure RO

membrane (M-T4040ULP), manufactured by Applied Membrane Inc., was used. The effective surface area of a single RO unit was 7.40 m 2 (80 ft 2 ). This system can provide dual water pressure for pretreat- ment at 172-374 kPa (20-50 psi) and for RO pro- cessing at 517-724 kPa (75-105 psi).

System development for treatment and reuse of aquaculture wastewater

Aquaculture wastewater passing through the RO mem- brane was separated into permeates (freshwater) and brine (concentrated wastewater). The permeate was re-circulated to the fish tank while the brine is diverted to a duckweed pond for further treatment and reuse Fig. 6. The system can generate and recycle freshwa- ter at a flow rate that ranged from 227.8 to 366.5 L h -1 , depending on the wind speed. The nitrogen removal rate ranged from 90 to 97% and the recovery rate of the RO membrane was about 40 to 56%. Further study will focus on increasing the system capacity while re- ducing the unit cost making the new technology more affordable.

The Development of a Renewable-Energy-Driven Reverse Osmosis System for Water Desalination and Aquaculture 1361 windmill pressurized

Fig. 5 Schematic of renewable-energy-driven RO system for water desalination.

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1362 Clark C K Liu Fig. 6 Schematic of renewable-energy-driven RO system for aquaculture wastewater treatment

Fig. 6 Schematic of renewable-energy-driven RO system for aquaculture wastewater treatment and reuse.

Acknowledgements

This study was supported in part by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) through a research grant (04-FG-81-1062). This is contributed paper WRRC-CP-2013-07 of the Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view and policies of the USBR.

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