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EPSA Selects ORNL as U.S. Winner of U.S.-Israel Integrated Energy and Desalination Design Challenge

June 5, 2017

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis (EPSA) has selected the team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as the U.S. winner of the U.S.-Israel Integrated Energy and Desalination Design Challenge. The selection took place at a capstone workshop on May 17-18, 2017 in Jerusalem. ORNL will receive support for further work on developing their design for an advanced desalination system that can flexibly interface with the modern electric grid. On the Israeli side of the challenge, Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources (MIEW) heard presentations from Israeli teams, but the Israelis plan to delay choosing an Israeli winner until designs are further developed.

The workshop included competing teams, expert judges, and industry partners from the U.S. and Israel
The workshop included competing teams, expert judges, and industry partners from the U.S. and Israel

DOE and MIEW launched the challenge in April 2016 as part of the effort to expand cooperation on energy-related research and development between the U.S. and Israel. Both countries are interested in improving the energy performance, efficiency, and flexibility of desalination systems to increase the options for water provisioning under different conditions in water-scarce regions. The challenge has stimulated thinking and sharing ideas on novel desalination system designs meeting these goals.

The ORNL-led team’s innovative design can accommodate multiple water sources as inputs and has potential to provide demand response and ancillary services to the electric grid. The team met goals of the challenge by demonstrating the ability to economically balance input and output flows of water, electricity, and wastes, while addressing water demand, electricity system service market opportunities, and environmental goals. The team included partners from Columbia University, Hazen and Sawyer DPC, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The workshop also featured broader discussion of a technology, economic, and regulatory perspective on the barriers and opportunities for flexible desalination to provide electricity grid services in a changing environment.  Participants also toured the Shafdan wastewater treatment facilities and the Sorek desalination plant.

The U.S. side of the challenge is informed by activities across DOE relating to the energy-water nexus, many of which are coordinated by DOE’s Energy-Water Nexus Crosscut Team, which drafted the 2014 DOE report entitled The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities. For example, the challenge is related to research by DOE on low-cost, low-energy desalination, and also to a joint modeling challenge between the U.S. and the European Union focused on improving connectivity between energy models and water models to address flexibility.

View of Israel’s Sorek Desalination Plant
View of Israel’s Sorek Desalination Plant.

The U.S. and Israel sides plan to continue discussing flexible desalination as the Challenge projects move to the next phase. Beyond the challenge, DOE cooperates with Israel through a number of other efforts. The centerpiece is the annual U.S.-Israel Energy Dialogue, a comprehensive inter-agency forum that includes policy and technical discussions at the level of senior officials, program managers, and researchers and framed by the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Agreement. Most recently, the 2015 Dialogue focused on the areas of oil and gas development, oil and gas research, energy-water nexus, energy sector cybersecurity, post-doctoral research exchanges, clean energy development, and other topics. Israel will host the next Dialogue. In addition, the U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy program provides awards to Israeli and American companies partnering on research and development projects. BIRD Energy has supported companies working to bring to market technology in various sustainable energy areas.

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