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New research consortium to address water security issues in US

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A new research consortium comprising four national laboratories has been established by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to lead a five-year, $100 million (€91.4 million) desalination effort to provide secure and affordable water in the US.

Known as the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), the consortium is led by four national laboratories: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The focus of the Energy-Water Desalination Hub will be on early-stage R&D for energy-efficient, cost-competitive desalination technologies, as well as methods to treat non-traditional water sources for a number of end uses.

The alliance aims to advance a portfolio of new technologies to bring 90% of non-traditional water sources, including seawater, brackish water and produced waters, to cost-competitive status with existing water sources within a decade.

NAWI will conduct research and develop a roadmap, which will prioritise the highest impact technology options, before identifying and soliciting projects to support those priorities. In addition to the four national labs, the alliance, which will be headquartered at Berkeley Lab, include 19 founding university partners and 10 founding industry partners.

“NREL’s research is informed by our globally recognised expertise in decision-science and analysis,” said Johney Green Jr., associate laboratory director for NREL’s Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences directorate. “Combined with our research experience with pilot-scale renewable energy-powered desalination technologies, as well as our deep technoeconomic analysis and modelling expertise, NREL is able to provide market insights and identify knowledge gaps, which will be incredibly valuable for this effort.”

Matt Ringer, NREL’s Advanced Manufacturing Program director and NAWI partnerships director, added: “Accomplishing the goals of the Hub requires input from industry experts from across the clean water spectrum. The NAWI Alliance is an inclusive organisation that brings their valuable insights to the forefront, helping guide the Hub’s strategic direction.”

Members of the alliance are expected to play a critical role in recommending future R&D investments for desalination technologies, as well as identifying barriers and opportunities for technology advancements.