Feasibility Study and Optimization Analysis of Using a PVT Collector for a Reverse Osmosis Based Water Desalination Plant

Jessica Adriana Bane, University of Texas at El Paso


With the increase in greenhouse gases and concerns regarding a changing climate, there is a need to increase the development of energies that do not require the combustion of fossil fuels. Photovoltaic Thermal (PVT) systems are one example. PVT systems combine two technologies to optimize the energy efficiency of each individual system. The thermal portion of the PVT system harnesses the heat given off from a photovoltaic system thereby reducing the energy waste that would have otherwise resulted. When incorporated with a reverse osmosis water desalination plant, the recovered thermal energy from the PVT system can be used to reduce the energy required for the reverse osmosis (RO) process. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of using a PVT water collector for a reverse osmosis based water desalination plant. The Kay Bailey Hutchison (KBH) plant in El Paso, Texas served as the physical model for this research. The driving research questions were: 1. What is the maximum RO feed temperature that can be used? 2. What is the optimum design for the PVT system that will achieve desired cooling of the PVT system and keep the RO feed temperature at/below what (1) finds? 3. How does the electrical performance of the PVT compare with PV for the same size array? This study shows that a cooled PVT system has about a 12% higher electrical efficiency when compared to a simple photovoltaic system, and reduces the specific energy of a desalination plant up to 2%. Preliminary studies indicate 95-104°F is the maximum temperature that can be used as the RO feed water temperature. Any temperature over 104°F results in poor water quality. A PVT system with a heat exchanger and a flow rate of 1263 gpm reaches desired cooling and keeps RO feed temperature below the maximum. The total land area needed for the modeled PVT system would be 35,790 ft 2.

Subject Area

Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Bane, Jessica Adriana, "Feasibility Study and Optimization Analysis of Using a PVT Collector for a Reverse Osmosis Based Water Desalination Plant" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10687698.