Wind power and desalination: a winning combination

December´s issue of Technology Review featured an interesting story about a partnership between GE and Texas Tech University.

They will conduct research focusing on the integration of renewable energy systems, such as wind turbines, with membrane desalination processes. The development of the integrated renewable energy-water system has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of desalination.The program also aims to develop a commercial scale demonstration within the next several years. It will be a model powered by an 1,5 MW turbine designed for brackish water capable of supplying the town of Seminole (Texas), which has about 10,000 residents.  

In a case of parallel research so typical in science and technology,  a very similar thought guided the mind of a brilliant Spanish inventor and entrepreneur, Manuel Torres, and his company, Mtorres. He has patents and business in fields ranging from machine tools to wind energy.

In 2005, the Spanish Ministry of Environment chose a project developed by the MTorres Groupto build wind-powered offshore desalination plants.  This project basically consists of using wind and water rationally to obtain, alternatively, desalted water and electricity be pumped to points far from the coast or send electricity to the grid, respectively.  A pre-production plant for these platforms is being built in the southeastern region of Murcia.  

The objective is a high-yield plant that would produce up to 10 cubic Hectometers/year (around 353 thousand cubic feet/year) of freshwater.  The platforms will be powered by a 2 MW.  turbine, plus 5 other 2 MW turbines around the platform, in a 100% renewable energy option. Another configuration will be a mixed solution, with part of the power supplied from land through a submarine cable.

The plant offers all sorts of advantages: an estimate of 30% more efficiency producing energy, freshwater 12% cheaper that with current methods and the possibility of excess energy supplied to the grid for nearby coastal cities. What is more, they offer a faster and, therefore more environmentally-friendly, dillution of the brine, as they are way out at sea. 

Experimental MTorres platform in the Mediterranean sea

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