Techno-economic feasibility study of PVT collector coupled with heat pump for membrane distillation water purification in rural India
Abstract: India is experiencing a bitter challenge in terms of water resources, with the lack of access to safe drinking water being attributed to nearly 200 000 deaths per year. The rural population is especially exposed as groundwater make up 85 % of their drinking water, with widespread contamination being reported. One source of contamination is fluoride, which has been identified in concentrations far beyond the recommended limit from the World Health Organization (WHO), causing severe health problems such as skeletal fluorosis. While India has made significant progress in providing households connections to the grid, electricity access remains unreliable, particularly in rural areas. Membrane distillation (MD) is a thermally driven water purification technology which achieves excellent fluoride reduction rates. Several systems with various combinations of technologies integrated with MD has been researched, where the use of photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collectors (PVT) and heat pumps (HP) has been receiving increased attention as of late. These two technologies have, to the Author’s best knowledge, never been integrated together for MD, which is the basis of this thesis. With the goal of providing an average of 1000 L of potable water a day, three novel off-grid systems are created using the energy modeling software Polysun with weather data from Balasore, India. Two PVT models and three different HPs identified on the market are considered for the systems. The PVTs differ in terms of glazing, and the HPs have various heating capacities and max water supply temperatures, with one being an air source heat pump (ASHP) and two water source heat pumps (WSHP). One configuration of each combination of PVT and HP is created and optimized in terms of MD modules, battery storage capacity, and feed flowrate, evaluated based on the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) production cost, PVT area, and average daily yield. Furthermore, two different controller strategies are evaluated based on their average daily yield, where one prioritize a high coefficient of performance (COP) for the HP, and the other energy recovery from the MD. The final configurations are thereafter compared based on their production cost. Nine out of the ten final configurations achieve a production cost between 60 - 72 $/m3 after being optimized, which is within the reported range for MD but at the higher end. The larger WSHP achieves the lowest production cost at 60.1 $/m3 paired with the glazed PVT, having a gross area of 323 m2. The glazed PVT performs better than the unglazed for all configurations in terms of both production cost and PVT area. However, the cost of the larger WSHP is based on the $/kW of the smaller WSHP while the two PVTs are assigned an identical $/m2, resulting in the price difference between the products being the determining factor for the actual configuration with the lowest production cost. The lowest PVT area for the final configurations is 294 m2. The required PVT area to reach the production goal is heavily dependent on the amount of MD modules, HP heating capacity and max water supply temperature, and battery storage capacity. Only one configuration achieved a higher yield when energy recovery was prioritized, which supplied 20 % of that system’s thermal energy while not utilizing 61 % of the energy recovery potential.
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