INTERVIEW: Germán López, Energy and Evironment Technical Officer at CTA
Technological Corporation of Andalusia (CTA) leads the European EERES4WATER project, funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme, and which integrates public and private entities to meet the challenges of the energy-water nexus in the Atlantic Area. In the following interview, Germán López, Energy and Environment Technical Officer at CTA, explains the challenges and innovations.
1. What is the energy-water nexus?
Water and energy are two essential resources that are intricately connected. Energy is required in the processes of the water cycle such as pumping, transportation, treatment and desalination. All sources of energy require water in their production processes. The extraction and treatment of raw materials, energy generation and storage, etc.
Both resources are essential to meet the basic needs of citizens, improve the quality of life and generate economic growth. Consequently, it is necessary to address the link between water and energy, in order to contribute to a sustainable development.
2. What are the challenges of the energy-water nexus?
There are different kind of challenges. Firstly, technical challenges, such as increasing energy efficiency in the processes involved in the water cycle and incorporating generation systems based on renewable energy sources.
Secondly, there are administrative-legal challenges, consisting of the incorporation of water-related criteria in energy legislation, such as the consideration of the water footprint, and energy criteria in the regulatory framework of the water cycle.
There are also challenges related to the development of new technologies to improve the technical and economic viability of the technologies currently available.
In addition, there are challenges associated with digitalisation, which would allow to take advantage of the enormous amount of information available on the water and energy generation, distribution and consumption, to optimize processes.
3. What are the technological trends in the energy-water nexus?
Progress is being made in improving energy efficiency in the water cycle processes, especially in pumping and aeration of wastewater, through devices and innovations that allow improving efficiency, detecting and minimizing leaks, having appropriate information to make decisions, etc.
Work is also progressing on the use of thermal energy contained in various types of water. At the same time, progress is under way in the research for innovative cooling technologies for thermoelectric plants (which reduce and even eliminate the amount of water required to cool), as well as techniques that reduce the consumption of water in the production of biofuels.
In the area of renewable energy, progress is being made in the development of solutions that increase the flexibility of the electrical system, with the development of energy storage systems as one of the keys. Another of the fields where research is being carried out is the desalination of seawater.
4. How important is the project and what impact will it have?
EERES4WATER project aims to develop solutions to the challenges of the energy-water nexus in the Atlantic Area.
On the one hand, the project aims to develop technological solutions in the field of renewable energy, addressing systems based on the use of sea waves for desalination applications, as well as wind and solar energy and renewable hybrid solar solutions.
On the other hand, the project seeks to improve energy efficiency by developing advanced reverse osmosis systems for desalination applications, more efficient pumping systems, waste heat utilisation systems, etc.
Energy labeling is also addressed in processes linked to the water cycle, with the objective of both increasing energy efficiency and raising awareness of the need to treat water and energy together.