Given that the first industrial revolution was based on Steam Engine (coal as energy source), and the second on oil and electricity, where both these revolutions are actually "high carbon" revolutions, it is logical to expect that the third industrial revolution should be based on systems of renewable energy sources (RES), in order to minimize the problems arising from climate changes and to achieve sustainable development.
However, the usage of the RES technologies and daily/weekly storage of energy and their connection to smart grids is not enough for the expected third industrial revolution. The start of this revolution would require technologies that have a great potential for further development and ability to supply, at any time, the necessary energy and power to a settlement/city, as well as drinking water, meeting the peak load requirements, continuously throughout the year, and independently of external sources of energy and drinking water. This would be provided from intermittent RES energy (solar, wind, etc.) and sea or other unclean source of water as natural resources.
In that context, this paper presents a radically new technological solution: Key Engine which uses only natural resources: the sun, sea and gravity, in order to continuously and simultaneously supply a consumer with energy, power and drinking water. This solution has all the essential features required to start a third industrial revolution.
The basic unit of Key Engine consists of the solar thermal (ST) generator with parabolic trough collectors through which sea water flows directly, absorbing thermal energy of solar radiation. After the separation of steam from seawater, the steam drives turbines and generators and produces electricity that is delivered to Pump Storage Hydroelectric (PSH) facility with seawater, which balances the daily and seasonal surpluses and shortages of energy, thus ensuring a continuous supply of electric power and energy to a consumer. At the same time, the water that comes out of the turbine, passes through the water treatment unit and is stored in drinking water reservoir, enabling continuous supply of the same consumer with drinking water.
The paper presents theoretical aspects of Key Engine, model for optimal sizing and practical formulas for the calculation of characteristic values of the system, which could be the basis for further scientific research, development and innovative solutions that would help engineers in practice for numerous and diverse applications of Key Engine.
In order to verify the derived mathematical relationships and models for optimizing the Key Engine in real conditions, the case study of the island of Vis in the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, has been considered, along with total annual irradiance of 1575 kW h/m² a, total annual electric energy consumption of 20 GW h and drinking water consumption of 453,382 m³. The obtained results: power of ST generator of 52 MW, working volume of the upper reservoir of 7 hm³, total annual electric energy production of 62 GW h/a, and drinking water production of 480,754 m³/a, clearly show that the new technology can fully meet the needs of the considered consumer for energy and drinking water.
As the basic idea of Key Engine relies on the use of natural resources, i.e. RES energy and sea, the paper presents only the starting solution, whereby, apart from the sun, RES can be wind, or other renewable sources, that can perform separation of vapor from seawater and thus produce drinking water, as well as energy simultanously. Also, energy storage may not be performed solely by the PSH technology, but also by any other technology that can provide seasonal balancing of energy. All this suggests that the Key Engine can be understood as an open-source for RES technology development and thus bring changes in all three aspects of sustainable development: economy, society and environment.