Joan Tarrago, Infinite Fingers
Autonomous Desalination based on Renewable Energies
Colombia, South America
Infinite Fingers GmbH and Membran-Filtrations-Technik GmbH installed a decentralized and renewable energy powered desalination systems in Colombia in La Guajira, Colombia. The project started in February 2016 and will end in January 2018. The total budget is Euro 400,000.
Infinite Fingers GmbH offers cloud-based monitoring and control solutions for off-grid power systems. We help off-grid operators to keep systems up and running for their entire lifespan by offering a platform which can integrate technology from any manufacturer. Membran-Filtrations-Technik GmbH (MFT): a medium sized company based in Cologne, Germany. It has over 20 years’ experience in designing, building and operating/servicing membrane-based water purification systems for fresh, drinking, salt, process and waste water.
Establishment of a proven operating model to provide clean drinking water from sea water in underdeveloped regions powered only using renewable energies based on sound data.
Even though La Guajira is on the coast in the northeast of Columbia, it is a very dry area. The local residents, many of whom are indigenous, are poor and suffer from a lack of clean drinking water. Colombia is experiencing more extreme weather conditions which are gradually destroying the fragile centralized water infrastructure. There is little chance in the region to access drinking water suitable for human consumption.
The potential for renewables in this area is huge. La Guajira area is basically a wild desert where sun, wind and salt water were abundant, but clean drinking water remained scarce. As a result, windy area studies were being carried out to build larger wind farms.
Infinite Fingers and MFT developed a renewable energy powered, remotely controllable micro-reverse osmosis water desalination plant, named RO 100 Sea. Infinite Fingers designed and developed the off-grid power unit, the controller and the web-based data visualization while MFT brought their expertise in energy efficient reverse osmosis water desalination to the project. The plant is powered with wind and solar energy, which is stored in lithium-ion batteries. All data of the plant, including the separate weather station, was monitored and recorded using the Infinite Fingers Controller. The data was sent via GSM to a server so that actionable decisions could be taken in real time by MFT back in Cologne. Main Specification:
• Capacity Up to 120 l/h drinking water output
• Energy Sources: 7.5 KWp PV, 350 W Wind turbine
• Storage: 11.2 kWh Lithium Ion
The remote-control system made it possible to see in Cologne how the system was performing in real time. The system recorded the weather condition, how much electricity was being provided by wind and solar sources, how much water was being produced and at which quality. If the drinking water quality fell below a certain limit, the system switched off automatically to prevent unfit water from being supplied to consumers. Local staff were first trained in Cologne and subsequently at the installation site to maintain and troubleshoot the system if needed. Although only low maintenance was needed, we ensured that the beneficiaries were ultimately autonomous for the long-term operation.
The project was partially funded by KfW DEG as well as MFT. A short video has been produced shortly before the unit was prepared for shipping. The total project costs were around Euro 400,000. KfW subsidiary DEG co-funded this project from budget resources of the International Climate Initiative of the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. It was set up as a research project until 2018, at which point the technology would be ready for series production.
The beneficiary of this first pilot plant was a school in La Guajira. The plant was already installed onsite, and gathering first data that would soon be analyzed. The goal was to operate a large number of decentralized, standalone and CO2 free drinking water systems via a centralized, cloud-based platform powered exclusively with renewable energies. There are plenty of various applications possible from the learnings of this pilot unit. We can mix and match different raw water qualities (sweet/salt water), different water output quantities, we can freely adjust power production and power use for different purposes such as water purification or micro water and energy grids by fully remote access.