Current desalination techniques are typically very energy intensive: energy consumption can account for up to 70 per cent of the desalination costs
GE ecomagination and Aramco Entrepreneurship, today launched an open global technology challenge to accelerate the development of solutions focused on improving energy efficiency of seawater desalination. The US$200,000 challenge will be awarded to four winners at a prize of US$50,000 each, and further investments towards commercialization of the best ideas amongst all submissions will be considered.
Current desalination techniques are typically very energy intensive: energy consumption can account for up to 70 per cent of the desalination costs. The global production of desalinated water uses approximately 75.2 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power nearly 7 million homes. The goal of this challenge is to identify novel ways to lower these costs around the world, either through technology advances, process improvements, or both.
Nabil Al-Khowaiter, Aramco Entrepreneurship’s Director of Special Projects, said: “Finding a more efficient method of desalinating seawater will be a game-changer in our collective pursuit of a more sustainable energy future across the globe. Due to increased water scarcity, countries around the world are poised to rely more and more heavily on desalination as a means to provide fresh water. With current techniques, this increased reliance could contribute dramatically to increased energy use. Aramco Entrepreneurship is partnering with GE not only to identify new solutions to lowering desalination costs, but also to invest in and attract new technologies and industries to Saudi Arabia.”
Deb Frodl, GE’s global executive director, ecomagination, said: “GE ecomagination is investing to speed up the development of more sustainable solutions for water desalination. Through this challenge, we hope to inspire scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and innovators around the world to bring their talents to this effort and help drive greater outcomes for customers.”
The open innovation challenge aims to identify new solutions to lower total desalination costs and emissions through: cleaner energy sources; incorporating advanced materials; and integrating processes better. Solutions must be innovative, impactful, feasible and scalable across the globe.
This technology challenge also received endorsement from the Saudi Arabian Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC), which owns and operates around 25 per cent of the entire world’s desalination capacity. The Governor of SWCC, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Ibrahim, said that the theme of this international open innovation competition is consistent with SWCC’s strategic objective of constantly working to bring down the cost of desalinated water in the Kingdom.
Entries are being immediately accepted at www.ninesights.com/community/ecomagination. The deadline to submit entries is July 16, 2014, and winners will be announced in November 2014.
The challenge is the fifth ecomagination open innovation challenge since ecomagination launched in 2005. The first two challenges focused on smart grid technology. GE has a successful history with open innovation challenges; most recently launching an advanced manufacturing challenge to use 3D printing to improve the production of a GE aircraft engine bracket and two healthcare challenges to advance work in breast cancer and traumatic brain injury diagnosis.
Since its 2005 launch, ecomagination – the company’s commitment to technology solutions that save money and reduce environmental impact for its customers and GE’s own operations – has generated more than US$160 billion in revenue. GE’s own operations have seen a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 2004 and a 47 per cent reduction in freshwater use since 2006, realizing US$300 million in savings. Building off this success, in February 2014, GE renewed its ecomagination focus by committing to reduce GE’s GHG emissions and freshwater use by 20 per cent, from the 2011 baseline, by 2020 and announcing the continuation of GE’s R&D investment committing to invest US$10 billion additional in ecomagination technologies to reach a total investment of US$25 billion by 2020.