California is turning to solar powered desalination to solve their drought problems. The drought is so bad. Seventeen communities across the state are in danger of running out of water within 60 to 120 days. But what if the solution to California’s water crisis is as simple as sunlight? Sunlight is one resource the state has in abundance. WaterFX is a company that is proposing solar powered desalination systems. Renewable desalination could solve the water scarcity issues in California. Other drought-stricken and desert climates across the world would also benefit from this technology.
WaterFX Introduces solar powered desalination to solve California’s Drought problems.
WaterFX’s system cleans water with a Concentrated Solar Still (CSS). The system collects the sun’s thermal energy. Then transfers it through pipes filled with heat transfer fluid to a heat pump. They use the heat for the distillation process, which evaporates freshwater out of the saltwater source. The condensate is then recovered as pure, fresh H2O. A thermal storage system holds excess heat for the times when the sun isn’t shining.
If they roll out the technology … they could produce 8% of all the water used in California. That’s enough water for over 7M acres of irrigated farmland. You would begin to change the economics and change the course of how water is used. The whole idea is to wean the State off of the Central Aqueduct and become water independent. The current system is unsustainable and unreliable.”
However solar desalination systems are not without their challenges – it takes a lot of energy to suck up large quantities of ocean water, and the process can capture local marine life as well. There’s also the issue of solar desalination’s byproduct – a salty sludge that can harm ecosystems if it’s pumped back into the ocean.
The World Following Suit
Other parts of the world working on renewable desalination include South Australia, where Sundrop Farms has installed a desalination plant near Port Augusta; Qatar, where the Sahara Forest Project is experimenting with a pilot system; and Saudi Arabia, where there are plans to build a solar-powered plant in Al-Khafji. Saudi Arabia currently uses the equivalent of around 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day for its desalination plants, so switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could have a huge positive impact on climate change and sustainability.
“What we are trying to do is to develop a model that can be replicated. The problems in California are identical to those in many parts of the world. China is depending on delicate river systems to provide water for all types of economic growth that will not be sustainable. We could also do this in Saudi Arabia – they use an enormous amount of oil for water consumption, to evaporate or move water around the country,” said Mandell.