Drought leads to growing need for innovation

Is it possible to relieve water shortage during periods of drought by transporting large amounts of water across great distances in a sustainable manner? The answers to this question can be found in a research project that Grundfos is taking part in.

According to General Manager Steen Holm Jensen, Grundfos’ participation should be seen as a continuation of our commitment to meet the need for water during the worst period of drought in Australia’s history. The last period of drought lasted for eight to nine years and ended in 2010.

Large pumps required

One city that is facing the water challenge is Adelaide, Grundfos’ Australian home town. With its 1.1 million inhabitants, Adelaide is the most densely populated city of South Australia, and every year, 220-240 billion litres of water is used in the city. This number is expected to grow in line with the anticipated population growth.

In normal circumstances, 40 per cent of the water used in Adelaide comes from the Murray River. In dry years, this number increases to as much as 90 per cent. The water is not taken directly from the river, but transported to high-lying reservoirs where it is kept until there is a need for it in the city.

This requires pumps. Large pumps. And large pumps use large amounts of energy. The transport of water from the Murray River to Adelaide accounts for one of the major strains on the electricity supply in South Australia. Therefore – and because a target has been set to ensure that 33 per cent of the energy consumed in South Australia should come from renewable energy sources – the research project focuses on renewable energy from the sun and the wind.

Dependence on weather to be reduced

If the pumps were only to use solar and wind power, however, the wind should be most powerful and the sun shine the brightest when the need for water is greatest. In reality, though, this is far from the case. However, as it is possible to store the water in high-lying reservoirs, pumping can often wait until the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

The overall objective of the research project is to provide answers to how renewable energy sources can be used for the largest possible part of electricity consumption spent on pumping. In addition, answers are needed for pumping requirements and for storage capacity in the high-lying reservoirs in order to maintain the water supply.

The greatest technological challenge is that the pumps must be able to work efficiently and with the lowest possible energy consumption, no matter how much or how little the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. This means that it must be possible to adjust the speed of the very large pumps that are to be used. And this is where Grundfos enters the picture to offer our expertise and take part in developing the required technology.

The research project is headed by the University of South Australia, and participants, in addition to Grundfos, include Ray Pank, minority shareholder of Grundfos Australia, and SA Water, a water supply company owned by the state of South Australia.

Project with opportunities

Steen Holm Jensen primarily considers Grundfos’ involvement in the research project a CSR initiative that contributes to developing sustainable solutions to Australia’s drought problems.

”In the long run, this project could offer sales promoting and commercial opportunities as it could provide us with a new, technical understanding of the way in which large-scale pumping can be combined with the use of renewable energy. And, naturally, it will strengthen our network in the academic world and with our major customer, SA Water”, says Steen Holm Jensen.

Grundfos representatives in the research project include Christian Brix Jacobsen, Manager, Structural and Fluid Mechanics, and Keld Folsach Rasmussen, Senior Development Engineer.