Clean Energy: The Next Industrial Revolution


I was reading the 100th Anniversary Issue of Forbes when I read something that completely changed my thoughts on clean technologies. It was a part of an interview with Jeff Skoll (eBay billionaire and active social entrepreneur) that read as follows:

"I would liken the clean-energy revolution to the industrial revolution, just happening faster. The numbers are staggering."

This was interesting. Having just gotten involved in the clean energy industry working with Pani Energy I was still navigating the waters of this revolution, figuring out at what stage it was at. Pani was focusing on both clean energy as well as water technologies, both of which are obviously very important. Being from Canada (where until recently our water was being sold at bargain prices to big bottling corporations) I have seen how important an issue clean water is in even the most water-abundant places. It was the next part, however, that got me really excited:

"In terms of water issues, if you have enough clean energy and you have access to an ocean, you can desalinate and then pipe that desalinated water where you need it, and grow food in deserts that previously couldn't sustain agriculture."

He wasn't kidding.

This is where we see the greatest opportunity with Pani's technology: the nexus between water and energy.

What does this mean?

There has always been an essential relationship between water and energy, which has been historically under-utilized. Pani has recognized this and has focused its entire technology around this relationship. Starting with energy efficiency in desalination plants, Pani has big plans: becoming the next leader in desalination technology & energy storage.

But first let's get back to the problem on hand: globally we are running into a freshwater crisis. With an ever-growing global population, this problem isn't going to solve itself. So what solutions exist?

Solution: Desalination.

Desalination is the process of removing impurities (in particular salt) from water to produce clean potable water. In areas such as Israel, they now have a water surplus versus a shortage and is now the only country where the desert is actually shrinking due to their agricultural expansion (which would be impossible without desalination).

Okay, that's great, but what does desalination have to do with renewable energy?

Well, it's more like what does energy have to do with desalination. Let me explain:

  • One of the main criticisms of desalination is the high amount of energy it takes to convert salt or brackish (undrinkable) water to freshwater. In many cases, this energy is being created by non-renewable resources (coal, petroleum, natural gas etc...)
  • What Pani is able to do is reduce the energy required in the desalination process by 10-30% which is great for the desalination plants (because they save money on energy costs) but also for the environment (as less non-renewable power sources are being used = fewer carbon emissions)
  • They do this with their patent-pending Adaptive Desalination Technology (find out more here)

Okay but this really seems like a band-aid solution to environmental issues. The greater solution generates all the power needed to power these plants by renewable energy. This is where we see the nexus between water & energy existing.

The Opportunity: Power Generation & Storage

The ultimate goal for any renewable or clean energy company is to be one of the driving forces behind this new ecosystem. This is where I got really excited by the business prospects behind Pani Energy.

Pani Energy has also been developing technology that will not only enable power generation from the desalination process but an ability to more effectively store that power. Some of the big issues with desalination from an environmental perspective are: 1) the amount of energy it requires 2) the leftover salty water that can't be reintroduced into the environment (as it is too salty for marine life to live in). We already talked about how Pani is addressing that first issue but what about the second issue?

Well, the cool thing that Pani can do is dilute this brackish leftover water to generate energy and then store that energy as well. This effectively accomplishes 2 tasks at once but the bigger prospect is this: an ability to produce clean renewable energy from waste that is the byproduct of clean water production.

This is the nexus between energy and water that we recognize and aim to achieve.

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Written by Morgan Tate