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Trevi Systems Pioneers Groundbreaking Renewable Seawater Desalination Plant in Hawaii

Trevi Systems, a leader in forward osmosis technology, celebrates the successful completion and operation of its groundbreaking 500m3/day renewable seawater desalination plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) site. This remarkable project, made possible by a $4 million US Department of Energy grant awarded to NELHA in 2022 with Trevi as the technology provider, marks a pivotal moment in renewable desalination.

The initiative, aimed at demonstrating the feasibility and efficacy of forward osmosis technology in seawater desalination for agricultural applications, surpassed expectations during its operation from June 2022 to September 2023. By harnessing solar power, Trevi's forward osmosis system accomplished a first in renewable desalination, producing potable water without reliance on an external energy grid for support.

"This project represents a significant advancement for forward osmosis as a sustainable desalination technology," remarked John Webley, CEO at Trevi Systems. "The successful operation of our 4th generation forward osmosis technology in conjunction with low-temperature CSP arrays highlights the viability of renewable energy for forward osmosis technology in producing potable water from seawater. Essentially, our FO plant produces carbon-free desalinated seawater with no GHG impact."

Key achievements of the project include:

  1. The plant's performance metrics were outstanding, with a recovery rate exceeding 65% and thermal energy consumption below 30kWh/m3, surpassing commercial RO systems' capabilities.

  2. Competitive Capital Costs: Demonstrated capital costs competitive with existing desalination technologies like Reverse Osmosis (RO).

  3. Utilizing Low-Grade Thermal Resources: Showcased coupling to low-grade thermal resources, maximizing the use of 'waste heat.'

  4. Reduced Energy Consumption: Demonstrated lower energy consumption compared to existing thermal technologies, setting a new benchmark in thermal desalination technology.

  5. Advancements in FO Component Technology: Highlighted advancements in hot nano-filtration, polymeric heat exchangers, draw solutions optimization, and improved FO membranes.

These combined advancements resulted in achieving a Levelized Cost of Water (LCOW), which is highly dependent on the cost of electricity, competitive with existing carbon-intensive technologies such as reverse osmosis, paving the way for a low carbon desalination future.

The success of this plant, coupled with the operation of a smaller similar renewable forward osmosis desalination plant in Cyprus which produces potable water, has garnered significant attention from the global community. A large system order from Kuwait is close to being signed, initiating the commercialization drive for this transformative technology.

Trevi Systems is committed to further expanding the NELHA plant's capabilities, with plans to increase capacity to over 6000m3/day at the same site and showcasing the potential for zero liquid discharge and brine concentration for mineral recovery.

Trevi Systems would like to acknowledge the contributions of our partners, Nippon Shokubai Co. Ltd. and Toyobo MC Corporation who supplied the draw solution and membranes for our forward osmosis system. The execution of this project during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and resilience in the face of adversity. 

About Trevi Systems:

Trevi Systems is a California based company who is a pioneer in forward osmosis technology for sustainable and efficient water desalination and brine concentration. With a commitment to innovation and environmental responsibility, Trevi continues to redefine the possibilities in utilizing forward osmosis and pressurized forward osmosis to deliver clean water and other resources from the most challenging wastewaters.

About Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaiʻi Authority:

NELHA administers the world’s premier energy and ocean technology park.  This unique master-permitted park is located on 870 acres of prime coastal property in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi and offers research support facilities for the development of renewable energy and other demonstration projects that utilize the unique resources found at the park. It is the world’s largest facility that continually brings ashore high quality, pristine supplies of both warm surface and cold deep seawater 24 hours a day with views to reap economic potentials from the dual temperature seawater delivery system and high solar insolation. Tenants located in HOST Park work at the pre-commercial, commercial, research and educational levels. It is the largest diversified economic development project in the State and is solely focused on developing green economic projects.  More information on NELHA can be found at

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