There is quite a bit of interest on Andrea Rossi’s Journal of Nuclear Physics concerning desalination plants. Desalination is traditionally a very expensive and time consuming process, which keeps it from being a commonly used source of fresh water. Granted, desalination is not the answer to all of the world’s water problems – there is not an infrastructure in place to pipe ocean water far inland to or from desalination plants.
For example, the Midwest United States is in a severe drought right now, and has gained little relief from Hurricane Isaac. The United States supplies, by some estimates, 30% of the world’s food. The continuing drought in this area, alone, has driven up worldwide food prices 10% between June and July. Grain as food for humans and for animals alike is much scarcer than in the past, and has reached a new record in cost. Soybeans increased in price by 17%. The drought has also resulted in the depletion of many heads of livestock. Not only is there insufficient water to sustain huge herds of cattle and sheep, there isn’t enough food for them, either. Hay and alfalfa crops have failed, pasture grasses are non-existent, and there is barely enough grain for domestic consumption and export.
As Hurricane Isaac floods the Mississippi River basin, Farmers in the Midwest wish there were some way to “pipe” that extra water to their dry fields.
The picture is not any better in parts of Africa. Mozambique has seen a 113% spike in the cost of maize. Sorghum from Southern Sudan is up 220%, and 180% in the rest of the country.
If there were ever a time for an international desalination program, and the infrastructures to support it, it is now. Pipelines of ocean water could be piped to crucial regions, where it could be desalinated on the spot. Or, it could be desalinated, and then pumped to affected areas.
Of course, there are those who would say that this would ultimately affect the ocean habitats, resulting in damage to oceans. But, currently, with the ice caps melting, perhaps there is a little extra water that the oceans can spare.
The desalination plants in operation are basically water treatment plants, with the additional step added of Reverse Osmosis. Reverse Osmosis is the act of forcing salt water through a semi-permeable membrane. This membrane removes almost all of the salt and contaminants in the ocean water. There are several different filters through which the water is forced, each straining out different sizes and types of contaminants. For instance, there is one step that removes oil. The final step involves filtering through a carbon filter to purify the taste. All of this requires high pressure water pumps to force the water through the filters. Maintenance and replacement of the filters themselves is a manor expense, as well.
However, according to figures available from Marin County, CA, removing the salt is the most expensive part of the process, taking up to 75% of the budget. The intake, pretreatment, and transmission of the water uses the same amount of energy as it does for regular water treatment.
With improved filtration systems, the pressure required to produce RO can be lowered. With that consideration, how much does it cost to desalinate water?
An average household, by some studies, uses 270 gallons of water a day. It takes 7.15 kWh of energy to desalinate 1000 gallons of water, which calculates to 1.9 kWhr per day to delsalinate water for a household each day.
The average desktop computer uses 3.4 kWh each day. It takes 2.4 kWh each day to keep your refrigerator running, if it is an energy efficient one. Television uses another 2.4 kWh each day, per household.
So the comparison of the amount of power used to desalinate water for households is about the same as any appliance. And yet, many areas experience brownouts and blackouts due to energy demands on the power grid. The desal plants would have to have separate power generation sources, as most water treatment plants do.
Many desalination plants are already using or considering the use of alternative or renewable energy sources for this power. Alternative energies currently in use are solar, wind, wave or tidal energy, methane from landfills, and green energy credits.
For a small community, a desalination plant would need about 20 acres for enough solar panels to power the plant for up to 6 hours a day. Wind power, while it has decreased in cost over the last couple of decades, would require a minimum of 127 acres, and average wind speeds of 13 mph.
Wave energy would require use of a minimum of 56 acres of ocean area, and the power would fluctuate based on the direction of the waves and the amplitude, as well. The use of tidal energy will be limited by the actual movement of the tides, at about 10 hours a day. Tide energy also has a significant impact on organism in the water. To incorporate tidal energy, a desal plant would have to have a minimum of 140 acres of water surface available.
The use of landfill gas is also a possibility, but this is already in use in many areas, and, therefore, an already tapped energy source. It is still the least expensive option for most applications. Regular energy produced at the power plant costs about six cents per kWhr, and use of landfill gas energy costs four cents per kWhr. Solar energy, at best, costs 30 cents per kWhr, wind is between 4 and 6 cents per kWhr, and wave and tidal energy is from 9 to 14 cents.
In developed countries, daily lives are seriously affected. Each household faces severe water restrictions, allowing landscaping to die – including trees, that renew the environment. Tub baths are banned, and wet-down showers only are recommended. Dishwashing must be reduced by 33% and clothes washing by 60%. Toilet flushing may be reduced by 25%.
In underdeveloped countries, drought brings famine.
Desalination plants can be built to provide water to communities close to the water source, but infrastructure to transport the water to other, more distant locations, must be built.
The power to run the desalination plants must almost certainly be provided by alternative energy, considering that current power grids are already overloaded.
Andrea Rossi stated recently on his Journal of Nuclear Physics that Leonardo Corp. has no experience with desalination. The most critical problem, as he sees it, is that of security. The industrial plants will require certified tradesmen for supervision, and this is after the desalination procedures are converted to LENR power. Rossi said this will most likely happen after that industrial E-Cat is well distributed.
That is, unless someone buys an industrial E-Cat and applies it to the desalination process. In the desalination process, the use of fuel cells has been considered as the power source, but there is still nothing on the market to fill that void.