As our freshwater sources continue to dry up, water is becoming an ever more valued resource. In these thirsty times, desalination companies are making considerable headway in solving our water shortages by creating drinking water out of ocean water. The process, however, has been known to be energy-intensive, very costly, and disruptive to marine life. The following companies are making great progress in trying to tackle some of these problems.
Because desalination plants are so energy-intensive, using renewable energy sources to power these plants is hugely advantageous. In Perth, Australia, Water Corporation recently built the Kwinana Desalination Plant (opened in 2007), which runs on wind energy from the Emu Downs Wind Farm, about 160 miles south of the city. Consisting of 48 wind turbines, there is enough energy to power the entire plant, which produces about 40 million gallons of drinking water per day. That’s approximately 20 percent of the city’s daily consumption, all made available by wind energy.
NanoH2O is a new desalination company that emerged from research at UCLA. The company has developed a membrane that attracts water molecules while repelling other molecules, making the membrane much more productive in the reverse osmosis process. This means less energy consumption and increased productivity. Inventor Dr. Erik Hoek projects that the total energy consumption of a plant can be reduced by up to 20 percent, depending on the plant’s design. The company’s technological advancements look promising in the pursuit to solve our shortage of freshwater.
Persistent droughts have especially injured California’s freshwater supplies, and this arid state is looking at desalination as favorable option. In southern California, NRG Energy has proposed a desalination plant along the Carlsbad coastline. Their air-cooled plant has an environmental advantage over other plants that use seawater to cool its steam turbines. Those plants often trap and kill fish in the process, whereas NRG Energy avoids the process entirely, protecting its surrounding marine life. Also, the plant’s two-part power generator is reported to increase energy efficiency while maintaining a low carbon footprint. For more details visit carlsbadenergy.com.
(Update: links removed)