Globally, about 10% of the world population does not have access to enough fresh water. In many hot-and-dry coastal regions and islands, the desalination of seawater might be the only practical option to have a fresh water supply. Therefore, low-cost desalination system is critical for freshwater demands. To address this issue, a desalination system consisting of solar photovoltaic (PV) and mechanical vapor compression subsystem is proposed in this study. The entire desalination system was modeled and designed to produce 10,000 m3 of fresh water per day at the coast of San Francisco, California. Key components such as water vapor compressor, solar PV panel, and three-stream heat recovery unit were designed, and their performances were analyzed. The effects of design variables and operating conditions on the system performance were investigated through a parametric study. Finally, an economic analysis was conducted and compared with current desalination technologies. The analysis results show that the specific power consumption of desalination system can reach 14.4 kWh/m3 when the evaporation temperature is 70°C. It is found that the evaporating temperature has a great influence on the heat pump system efficiency and evaporator design. The levelized cost of the proposed system is $0.76 per m3 of fresh water which is lower than current grid-powered vapor compression desalination system and other thermal desalination systems. The proposed solar PV driven desalination improves thermoeconomics of desalination system by applying low-lift operating condition to the vapor compression cycle so that it can contribute to solving the fresh water supply challenges.

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