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Title: Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource

Abstract

About 50% of the solar energy absorbed at the Earth’s surface drives evaporation, fueling the water cycle that affects various renewable energy resources, such as wind and hydropower. Recent advances demonstrate our nascent ability to convert evaporation energy into work, yet there is little understanding about the potential of this resource. Here in this paper we study the energy available from natural evaporation to predict the potential of this ubiquitous resource. We find that natural evaporation from open water surfaces could provide power densities comparable to current wind and solar technologies while cutting evaporative water losses by nearly half. We estimate up to 325 GW of power is potentially available in the United States. Strikingly, water’s large heat capacity is sufficient to control power output by storing excess energy when demand is low, thus reducing intermittency and improving reliability. Our findings motivate the improvement of materials and devices that convert energy from evaporation.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3]; ORCiD logo [4]
  1. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States). Dept. of Chemical Engineering
  2. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States). Dept. of of Biological Sciences; City Univ. (CUNY), NY (United States). Graduate Center, Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC); City Univ. (CUNY), NY (United States). Dept. of Chemical Engineering
  3. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States). Dept. of of Earth and Environmental Engineering
  4. Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States). Dept. of of Biological Sciences, and Dept. of Physics
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE; National Science Foundation (NSF)
OSTI Identifier:
1425942
Grant/Contract Number:  
[SC0007999; SC0014203]
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Additional Journal Information:
[ Journal Volume: 8; Journal Issue: 1]; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
13 HYDRO ENERGY; Renewable energy; Devices for energy harvesting; Hydrology

Citation Formats

Cavusoglu, Ahmet-Hamdi, Chen, Xi, Gentine, Pierre, and Sahin, Ozgur. Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00581-w.
Cavusoglu, Ahmet-Hamdi, Chen, Xi, Gentine, Pierre, & Sahin, Ozgur. Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource. United States. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00581-w.
Cavusoglu, Ahmet-Hamdi, Chen, Xi, Gentine, Pierre, and Sahin, Ozgur. Tue . "Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource". United States. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00581-w. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1425942.
@article{osti_1425942,
title = {Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource},
author = {Cavusoglu, Ahmet-Hamdi and Chen, Xi and Gentine, Pierre and Sahin, Ozgur},
abstractNote = {About 50% of the solar energy absorbed at the Earth’s surface drives evaporation, fueling the water cycle that affects various renewable energy resources, such as wind and hydropower. Recent advances demonstrate our nascent ability to convert evaporation energy into work, yet there is little understanding about the potential of this resource. Here in this paper we study the energy available from natural evaporation to predict the potential of this ubiquitous resource. We find that natural evaporation from open water surfaces could provide power densities comparable to current wind and solar technologies while cutting evaporative water losses by nearly half. We estimate up to 325 GW of power is potentially available in the United States. Strikingly, water’s large heat capacity is sufficient to control power output by storing excess energy when demand is low, thus reducing intermittency and improving reliability. Our findings motivate the improvement of materials and devices that convert energy from evaporation.},
doi = {10.1038/s41467-017-00581-w},
journal = {Nature Communications},
number = [1],
volume = [8],
place = {United States},
year = {2017},
month = {9}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Citation Metrics:
Cited by: 14 works
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Figures / Tables:

Figure 1 Figure 1: The surface energy balance in the absence and presence of an evaporation-driven engine. a The net radiative energy into a water body is balanced by convection and evaporation. b An example of an evaporation-driven engine, incorporating water-responsive materials, placed at the water surface can harness energy from evaporation12.more » c Such an engine harnesses energy from evaporation through a 4 stage cycle: (I) With the upper shutters (gray jagged line) closed, the water-responsive material (green block) swells, absorbing water vapor at the high chemical potential μs. (II) At maximum absorption, the upper shutters open as the bottom shutters close. (III) With the upper shutter open, the water-responsive material shrinks, releasing water that evaporates away into the atmosphere at a lower chemical potential μe. (IV) At maximum desorption, the upper shutters close as the bottom shutters open, restarting the engine cycle. d The flows between the water body and the atmosphere occur along a thermal gradient between Ts and Ta for convection and along a chemical gradient between μs to μa for evaporation. e The new energy balance can be illustrated between net incoming radiation, convection, evaporation, and work extracted between μs and μe« less

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    journal, March 2012

    • McDonald, Cory P.; Rover, Jennifer A.; Stets, Edward G.
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    • DOI: 10.4319/lo.2012.57.2.0597

    Wind speed reductions by large-scale wind turbine deployments lower turbine efficiencies and set low generation limits
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    • Miller, Lee M.; Kleidon, Axel
    • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 113, Issue 48
    • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1602253113

    Scaling up nanoscale water-driven energy conversion into evaporation-driven engines and generators
    journal, June 2015

    • Chen, Xi; Goodnight, Davis; Gao, Zhenghan
    • Nature Communications, Vol. 6, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8346

    Impact of urbanization and land-use change on climate
    journal, May 2003


    Impact of soil moisture‐climate feedbacks on CMIP5 projections: First results from the GLACE‐CMIP5 experiment
    journal, October 2013

    • Seneviratne, Sonia I.; Wilhelm, Micah; Stanelle, Tanja
    • Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 40, Issue 19
    • DOI: 10.1002/grl.50956

    Potential for natural evaporation as a reliable renewable energy resource
    text, January 2017

    • Cavusoglu, Ahmet-Hamdi; Chen, X.; Gentine, Pierre
    • Columbia University
    • DOI: 10.7916/d8k08g6t

    Bio-Inspired Polymer Composite Actuator and Generator Driven by Water Gradients
    journal, January 2013


    Importance of rain evaporation and continental convection in the tropical water cycle
    journal, February 2007

    • Worden, John; Noone, David; Bowman, Kevin
    • Nature, Vol. 445, Issue 7127
    • DOI: 10.1038/nature05508

    An autonomous actuator driven by fluctuations in ambient humidity
    journal, July 2016

    • Arazoe, Hiroki; Miyajima, Daigo; Akaike, Kouki
    • Nature Materials, Vol. 15, Issue 10
    • DOI: 10.1038/nmat4693

    Two methods for estimating limits to large-scale wind power generation
    journal, August 2015

    • Miller, Lee M.; Brunsell, Nathaniel A.; Mechem, David B.
    • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 112, Issue 36
    • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1408251112

    Putting the "vap" into evaporation
    journal, January 2007


    Satellite-based global-ocean mass balance estimates of interannual variability and emerging trends in continental freshwater discharge
    journal, October 2010

    • Syed, T. H.; Famiglietti, J. S.; Chambers, D. P.
    • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107, Issue 42
    • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003292107

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    • DOI: 10.1098/rstb.1976.0035

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    • Berg, Alexis; Findell, Kirsten; Lintner, Benjamin
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    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3029

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    • Wheeler, Tobias D.; Stroock, Abraham D.
    • Nature, Vol. 455, Issue 7210
    • DOI: 10.1038/nature07226

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    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2068

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    • DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1580

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    • Zhang, Lidong; Liang, Haoran; Jacob, Jolly
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    • DOI: 10.1038/ncomms8429

    Emergent relation between surface vapor conductance and relative humidity profiles yields evaporation rates from weather data
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    • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 110, Issue 16
    • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1215844110

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    • DOI: 10.1086/686733

    On the role of soil moisture in daytime evolution of temperatures: ROLE OF SOIL MOISTURE IN DAYTIME TEMPERATURE EVOLUTION
    journal, September 2012

    • Lockart, Natalie; Kavetski, Dmitri; Franks, Stewart W.
    • Hydrological Processes, Vol. 27, Issue 26
    • DOI: 10.1002/hyp.9525

    Code and Data for Potential for natural evaporation as reliable renewable energy resource
    fileset, September 2017


    Value of storage technologies for wind and solar energy
    journal, June 2016

    • Braff, William A.; Mueller, Joshua M.; Trancik, Jessika E.
    • Nature Climate Change, Vol. 6, Issue 10
    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3045

    Investigating soil moisture–climate interactions in a changing climate: A review
    journal, May 2010


    Global Consequences of Land Use
    journal, July 2005


    Development and validation of a global database of lakes, reservoirs and wetlands
    journal, August 2004


    Thermal structure of lakes varying in size and water clarity
    journal, June 1994


    The global energy balance from a surface perspective
    journal, November 2012


    The global abundance and size distribution of lakes, ponds, and impoundments
    journal, September 2006


    High-resolution mapping of global surface water and its long-term changes
    journal, December 2016

    • Pekel, Jean-François; Cottam, Andrew; Gorelick, Noel
    • Nature, Vol. 540, Issue 7633
    • DOI: 10.1038/nature20584

    Bacillus spores as building blocks for stimuli-responsive materials and nanogenerators
    journal, January 2014


    Bio-inspired, Moisture-Powered Hybrid Carbon Nanotube Yarn Muscles
    journal, March 2016

    • Kim, Shi Hyeong; Kwon, Cheong Hoon; Park, Karam
    • Scientific Reports, Vol. 6, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.1038/srep23016

    The impact of global land-cover change on the terrestrial water cycle
    journal, October 2012

    • Sterling, Shannon M.; Ducharne, Agnès; Polcher, Jan
    • Nature Climate Change, Vol. 3, Issue 4
    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1690

    Emerging hydrovoltaic technology
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      Figures/Tables have been extracted from DOE-funded journal article accepted manuscripts.