Solar Desalination & Industrial Process Heat

WaterFX's Aqua4 solar desalination: modular and scaleable

WaterFX’s Aqua4 solar desalination: modular and scaleable

Solar powered desalination is potentially one of those amazing disruptive technologies which could change human history for the better. It could secure water supplies for water stressed communities in the hot dry tropics, and open up desert areas for agriculture, energy generation and human settlement. It could be a real game changer. A number of exciting technologies exist, some old, some new, but none as yet deployed at scale. I’ve written about the Seawater Greenhouses developed by Charlie Paton, and adapted into the Saltwater Greenhouses that Philipp Saumweber and Sundrop Farms have built in Australia and Qatar. Sundrop Farms is planning a major expansion this year. Exciting stuff.

Meanwhile in California another small start up company, WaterFX, has just opened the first of a new kind of solar desalination process and are putting it to a new use. I’d always thought about using solar desalination in the context of taking sea water and making it into fresh water, and therefore of use in coastal locations. WaterFX is using their Aqua4 concentrated solar still at Panoche in California’s dry central valley to recycle polluted agricultural irrigation water. As well as producing fresh water they can extract a range of useful and saleable products from the polluted water, including salt, gypsum, magnesium sulphate, selenium and boron.

Also in the news at the moment are a couple of interesting experimental scale concentrating solar power breakthroughs by the Paul Scherrer Institute. The first uses the sun’s energy to extract very pure zinc oxide from industrial waste. The second utilizes concentrating solar power to produce syngas (a hydrogen / carbon monoxide mix) from various waste materials, which could be used as an energy storage medium, or directly in industrial processes such as cement manufacture.

Solar Desalination, WaterFX and

Oliver Balch CSP Today

Paul Scherrer Institute and