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

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.
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:
Grant/Contract Number:
SC0007999; SC0014203
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 8; Journal Issue: 1; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-1723
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Columbia Univ., New York, NY (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; National Science Foundation (NSF)
Country of Publication:
United States
13 HYDRO ENERGY; Renewable energy; Devices for energy harvesting; Hydrology
OSTI Identifier: