The team at JennSolar says that one billion people have no access to clean water, and two billion people suffer from water scarcity for at least one month of the year. Further, the demand for water in 2050 is projected to be fifty five percent higher than the world’s current needs. Kevin Jennings has been focusing on renewable energy for the last decade, and thinks that ocean water is one of the answers to the world’s water needs. More than 20,000 desalination plants exist today but few if any are run using renewable energy. Jennings and the JennSolar team are developing a solution to desalinate water using solar energy on a large scale.
The Ringtrough is a system using 40 foot wide parabolic mirrors to heat water flowing through a 6 inch pipe to a temperature just higher than the water’s boiling point. Water heated to 230 degrees Fahrenheit is then sprayed into a flash distillation tank, the brine goes back toward the ocean, and the fresh water is collected. This massive crowdfunding goal of $400,000 is will develop a prototype system capable of creating 3000 gallons of fresh water per hour. This will supply the group with a working system on a small scale. By comparison, my favorite desalination plant, the Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant made famous in an episode of How It’s Made, provides up to 25 million gallons of drinking water per day. The patent for “Parabolic trough solar reflector with an independently supported collector tube” was granted to Kevin Jennings in 2012 for the device.
Using solar energy to create clean drinking water is a great goal, a great mix of service engineering and sustainability. It’s odd to me that this project hasn’t gained more attention, and that instead of creating more small prototypes and doing onsite installations the group has moved forward with the proof of concept model shown in the campaign video and plans for a small scale desalination plant. The comment section is relatively quiet, and this is usually the perfect type of project for engineers and laypersons to throw opinions around for all to read. This crowdfunding campaign ends on October 7, but I couldn’t find any timing stated for the first desalination plant to be operational.