A1 Journal article (refereed), original research

Assessing the potential for renewable energy powered desalination for the global irrigation sector

Open Access publication

Publication Details
Authors: Caldera Upeksha, Breyer Christian
Publisher: Elsevier
Publication year: 2019
Language: English
Related Journal or Series Information: Science of the Total Environment
Volume number: 694
ISSN: 0048-9697
eISSN: 1879-1026
JUFO-Level of this publication: 2
Open Access: Open Access publication
Location of the parallel saved publication: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi-fe2019091628288


By 2050, it is estimated that the annual cereal production would need to increase by about 140% and total global food production increase by 70%. Meanwhile, total water withdrawals for irrigation are projected to increase by 11%. In contrast, poor management of existing water resources, pollution and climate change has resulted in limited freshwater resources. The aim of this paper is to assess how improved irrigation efficiency and renewable energy based desalination maybe used to secure future water supplies for the growth of rice, wheat and maize.

The efficiencies of the existing irrigation sites were obtained and improved based on a logistic curve. The growth was projected such that by 2050, all existing irrigation sites would have an efficiency of 90%. The new irrigation efficiencies were used to obtain the reduced irrigation demand for the years 2030 and 2050. The desalination demand was estimated and an energy system model used to optimise the corresponding renewable energy based power system.

It was found that improving the average irrigation efficiency to 60% by 2030, led to a 64% reduction in total desalination demand. Similarly, an improvement towards 90% irrigation efficiency, by 2050, translates to an 80% reduction in global desalination demand. In 2030, the total water cost is mostly within 0.7 €/m3–2 €/m3 including water transportation costs. Literature reports that farmers may be willing to pay up to 0.63 €/m3 for their irrigation water. The global range in 2050 is estimated to be 0.45 €/m3–1.7 €/m3 reflecting the lower system costs in 2050.

The above results indicate that as conventional water prices increase, renewable energy based seawater reverse osmosis desalination, offers a cost effective water supply for the irrigation sector. Adoption of high efficiency irrigation systems alleviate water stress and can eliminate need for additional water supply.

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Last updated on 2020-20-03 at 10:03