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Desalination Capacity Rises to 140 million m3/Day in 2020 as Green Energy Expands Viability

Lux Research

The Middle East, Caribbean, and Oceania account for 283 billion m3 of freshwater demand, and solar- and wave-powered desalination can be
the low-cost solution, says Lux Research

BOSTON, MA – May 24, 2016 – Desalination – converting sea water into fresh water – will grow at 8% annually to 140 million cubic meters (m3) daily in 2020, reflecting soaring demand in some parts of the world and growing viability of renewable energy technologies, according to Lux Research.

Desalination is energy-intensive, so using environmentally friendly energy sources is desirable – and can also be the most economical solution. Demand for potable water in the Middle East is 203 billion m3 per year, and islands in the Caribbean and Oceania add 80 billion m3, and these regions can be prime targets for green desalination with energy sources like solar and wave power.

“Solar farms are the most appropriate for the Middle East due to the region’s abundance of land and sunlight, while emerging technology to harness power from sea waves is best for small island nations,” said Thomas Ooi, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, “Emerging Green Desalination: Solar and Wave Technologies.”

“Forward osmosis (FO), coupled with thermal solar, is another promising technology that can challenge incumbent photovoltaic solar and reverse osmosis (RO)," he added.


Lux Research evaluated solar and wave power for desalination and six startups that offer state-of-the-art technologies. Among their findings:

  • SunPower leads among solar firms for green desalination. SunPower’s solar panels require the least land – 0.8 km2 for a typical plant that produces 540,000 m3 of freshwater daily. In comparison, eSolar needs 2.4 km2 and Solar Euromed’s system takes up 3.6 km2. SunPower’s PV technology powering RO achieves a cost of $0.78/m3.
  • Wavepiston leads in cost. Among wave energy startups, Wavepiston has the lowest levelized cost of water (LCOW) of $1.30/m3 while Resolute Marine Energy (RME) was second with $1.83/m3.
  • Seatricity leads in commercial development. Seatricity is far ahead in commercial development than most wave energy developers, having weathered field trials in Scotland’s winter storms with waves as high as 15 meters.

The report, titled “Emerging Green Desalination: Solar and Wave Technologies,” is part of the Lux Research 
Water Intelligence service.