Temporal performance indicators for an integrated pilot-scale membrane distillation-concentrated solar power/photovoltaic system

Mikah Inkawhich, Jeb Shingler, Remington S. Ketchum, Wei Pan, Robert A. Norwood, Kerri L. Hickenbottom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Management of concentrate streams in inland applications has uncertain long-term environmental impacts. This study investigates an intensified solar-energy capture desalination system that integrates membrane distillation (MD) with a hybrid concentrated solar power (CSP)/photovoltaic (PV) collector to realize self-sustained zero-waste discharge for effective management of concentrate streams in inland and off-grid applications. The demonstration-scale CSP/PV system can produce up to 178 kWh of thermal energy and 4 kWh of electrical energy per day. The thermal and electrical energy from the CSP/PV system is directly supplied to the air gap MD (AGMD) pilot-scale system producing up to 288 L of distilled water per day. Experiments were performed on the hybrid AGMD-CSP/PV system to evaluate system performance under various operating conditions including AGMD and CSP flow rates, CSP system pre-heating, and AGMD vacuum pressure. Experimental results indicate that doubling the AGMD flow rate results in a 119% increase in thermal energy utilization and a 71% increase in distillate production. Compared to the winter months, operating the system in summer months when direct normal irradiance (DNI) is highest results in nearly double the distillate production (88 L in winter and 168 L in summer) and nearly three times the amount of thermal energy consumption (15 kWh in winter and 43 kWh in summer). Operating with vacuum resulted in a 34% increase in distillate production and allowing the thermal storage reservoir to preheat in the winter resulted in a 61% increase in distillate production. Overall, experimental results highlight the tradeoff between distillate production and thermal and electrical energy production and consumption under various environmental conditions and the potential for AGMD-CSP/PV to be a stand-alone desalination system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121675
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023


  • Inland concentrate management
  • Membrane distillation
  • Process intensification
  • Solar-thermal desalination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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