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Powering an island system by renewable energy—A feasibility analysis in the Maldives

Liu, Jiahong, Mei, Chao, Wang, Hao, Shao, Weiwei, Xiang, Chenyao
Applied energy 2017
bioenergy, carbon, desalination, emissions, energy, freshwater, infrastructure, islands, solar energy, transportation, water security, water shortages, wind power, Maldives
Water and energy supply systems are essential parts of the infrastructure on islands. For small islands that are far from continents, water shortage is usually the main constraint on economic and social development. In order to maintain island water security, desalination plants are built to supply fresh water. The plants need a great deal of energy, which increases demand for energy and the cost of transportation. Thus, it is necessary to design a new island system driven by renewable energy. This study investigated the existing type of water and energy supply systems in some typical islands of the world, and analyzed their advantages and disadvantages. The energy supply systems can be classified into three categories: imported conventional energy supply system (ICESS); imported conventional energy & renewable energy supply system (ICE&RESS); and integrated energy supply system (IESS). Water supply systems can also be classified into three categories: imported water supply system (ImWSS); imported water and unconventional water supply system (IW&UWSS); and integrated water supply system (InWSS). The nexus of energy and water is very complicated on islands. This paper presents a framework for an interconnected energy and water system on an island. The new framework reveals a roadmap from “full input of energy & water (FIEW)” through “semi-input of energy & water (SIEW)” to “zero input of energy & water (ZIEW)”, which leads an island's energy and water resources to become gradually independent from the mainland. The new framework also reduces transportation costs and carbon emissions. The proposed framework is applied to the Maldives to aid design of a renewable energy-driven water supply system. The characteristics and mutual adaptability of three types of renewable energy (solar, wind, and biomass energy) and water supply systems is discussed. The results show that a ZIEW system can be realized in the Maldives with a reduction in the cost of renewable energy. ZIEW system has great potential for application in island regions in the future.