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Earth Power Science

Gulf of Mexico Gets Wave-Powered Desalination Plant 75

blair1q writes "The US Army Corps of Engineers has issued the first permit for a wave-powered desalination plant in American territory to a company called Independent Natural Resources. Waves will operate 'Seadog' pumps, which will lift water into the plant and onto a water wheel connected to a generator, which will create electricity to operate a reverse-osmosis desalination system. The permit runs for four years. Let's hope they don't harm the environment, permanently impact drilling operations, or give Rube Goldberg any crazy ideas..."
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Gulf of Mexico Gets Wave-Powered Desalination Plant

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  • Unfortunately, it wasn't designed to de-oil the water.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @05:57PM (#32382852)

    Can't they just burn the water to power it?

  • by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @05:59PM (#32382886) Homepage Looks promising actually.

    • Simple and elegant, I think if I were them I'd be using it to power a commercial scale oil/water separator, unfortunately they might have a hard time keeping up with demand.

  • What would you do with Desalinated water that would involve it going back into the ocean?

    • Re:Quick Question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:07PM (#32382990)

      Drink it? Use it for cleaning? Any damn thing you do with water?

      Many will notice rivers tend to flow towards oceans.

      • Then where does the environmental issue come in?

        If the water is returning to the ocean, it's not like it is going to affect water levels too much. And if its salt they need, they'll have a bunch lying around from the desalination.

        Unless of course, the issue is to use the salt? I think you may have inadvertantly lead me to answering my own question.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          The increased salinity in the area of the device, perhaps.
          The fact that it may ingest fish and other wildlife could be another issue.

          Lots of possibilities.

          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I fear the day that I ingest fish and animals...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Entropy2016 ( 751922 )

          Reverse Osmosis generates water that is super-saline (not dry salt). Under RCRA, highly concentrated salt-water (like the type that can be produced by mass amounts of reverse-osmosis) is legally classified as a kind of hazardous waste, and for good reason.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

            Could you not evaporate it into sea salt that you sell?

            Or release it over a large area and mix it well?
            I am thinking some sort of pipe that has many small holes and leaks over a large area. This would mean the super-saline water would be mixed with the sea water very fast.

            • B-b-but, that would be suggesting that in this scenario the solution to pollution could actually be dilution! That's madness! Can not allow.

              Anyways, as far as evaporating it goes, that'd be a great idea provided they have the land available to actually flood and evaporate on. I don't know if they do or not.

              • Actually, that's a very good idea. You could pump the super-saline to many locations via small pipelines (with holes drilled lengthwise). I would imagine the concentration would be so low as to have little to zero effect on the environment. The ocean is vast!!!

                • You could pump the super-saline to many locations via small pipelines (with holes drilled lengthwise).

                  Is lengthwise not the traditional orientation of the hole in a pipe? Wouldn't make for much of a pipe otherwise.

          • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

            Probably has more to do with its effect on dry land, it'll do quite some damage if you pour it onto farm land but if you spread it out enough and put it back into the ocean it should be fine.

        • Then where does the environmental issue come in?

          The fact that they will build large installations in areas which are essential to the ecosystem. Many species of fish, shrimp, and crab in the Gulf need coastal marshes and mangroves to breed.

        • where does the environmental issue come in?

          Waste in the form of brine [].

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Flush the toilet?

  • by FrankDrebin ( 238464 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:05PM (#32382968) Homepage
    "Thanks to BP, for the first 3 years of operation, the desalination plant will actually produce Kraft Cajun-Style Salad Dressing."
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:16PM (#32383072) Homepage Journal

    Using wave technology, which varies in cycles, you can store desalinated water at times of peak flow.

    A tidal generator can have many forms - some, which look like buoys, are basically upside-down wind turbines that use the flow of water instead of air to move the blades, while others can use permeated cells. Desalination plants have been around since before WW II, naturally, as have tidal generators.

    Delivery of energy supply is one of the main problems with desalination - the process uses a lot of energy, so using local sources such as tidal power makes more sense than trying to string extra power to the plant.

    Not that you'd want to drink the swampy and/or briny water in many lowland tidal areas ...

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      get a 10MW solar nuclear generator, build the plant around that. power problem solved.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        I'm sorry, but we're talking reality here.

        Nuclear fusion has been 20 years in the future since the World's Fair in NY before I was born.

        It's still 20 years in the future.

        But we do have flying cars, jetpacks, and TV/cell wristwatches.

  • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:16PM (#32383080) Journal

    Thanks to the spill this plant is self lubricating.

  • Just a demo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:28PM (#32383210) Homepage

    "Rather than sell electricity or water, though, operators will be taking data to measure impact on sea life, the generator's performance, and the cost of operation, said Douglas Sandberg, the vice president of the privately funded company."

    So it's just a demo. Only generates 60KW. Not clear if that's average or max power; probably max. On days with low surf, not much will happen.

    They've been hyping this since 2004. There are better wave powered generation devices, and even the best ones are commercial flops.

  • oil tag? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoFoQ ( 584566 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:30PM (#32383220)

    why there an "oil" tag on this one?
    sure, they probably can't operate it while there's the oil issue in the gulf....though, I wonder if their reverse-osmosis filtration systems can filter out oil.....or the seadog pump that use a "wheel" (also wonder if those "wheels" are like a centrifuge)

    even if it can't...send Kevin Costner in (rolls sarcastic eyes here), he'll make it work some how.

  • At least they won't need to worry about greasing anything for several years, but who's going to buy black salt?

  • Rate (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jpmorgan ( 517966 )

    An interesting idea... but just because something is clean and self-sustaining, doesn't make it a wise investment. At what rate does this produce fresh water, and how much does it cost to build? It sounds clever, but would it actually be more efficient than a traditional desalination powered by solar, or even nuclear power?

    I hope it works well, but too many of these ideas simply cost too much for too little.

    • Here they are talking about something small you can put into place remote from the grid and you are suggesting a technology that is best at very large scales?
      There is also no such thing as "traditional desalination" yet but a nice try at emotional manipulation there.
      Do you write this for every new technology and just change two or three words? It just doesn't quite fit in this situation but looks very familiar.
      • There is also no such thing as "traditional desalination"

        The Navies of the world would like a word with you. There absolutely is "traditional desalination" which typically runs off waste heat on ships. There are many on shore desalination plants in dry parts of the world with natural gas to flare off.

        A cost/benefit analysis is reasonable for every new technology. Please include non-financial costs and benefits but do the thinking before going whole hog.

        A billion dollar 50kw generator will never be wort

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          The Navies of the world would like a word with you. There absolutely is "traditional desalination" which typically runs off waste heat on ships.

          I think you'll find they would never dream of calling it such a thing, and instead call it "distillation".
          I'm just calling the above poster to task for the usual NIMBY luddite bullshit and raising emotive questions in such a way as to demonstate he has absolutely no clue and didn't even fully read the article summary.

          • You think what they call it makes your argument less wrong?

            FYI distillation is one of several methods used for desalination.

            The GP poster suggested that a reasoned look at the economics of new technology is appropriate prior to deciding it will/won't save the world. You interpret that as 'NIMBY Luddite bullshit' without bothering to understanding it.

            I agree with the sib poster. You are a moron.

      • There's lots of "traditional" desalination techniques, and it's widely used in regions like the Persian Gulf where supplies of fresh water are limited. You've got everything from evaporative desalination to reverse osmosis which can run on waste heat from power plants or other industrial processes, to reverse-osmosis. And you can easily build a small reverse-osmosis based desalination plant powered by solar. All that takes is some clear skies and a water pump, no need for a complex field installation.

        What g

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          So you don't read the article summary, don't notice it is reverse-osmosis but rave on about that later, make up some numbers with one deliberately large and another deliberately small to make one thing look bad, and then call me an idiot?
          I'm simply sick of this mindless questioning luddite bullshit that appears whenever an alternative energy is mentioned, along with what I'm assuming is the clueless "why not nukes, we got them right in 1970 but those damn hippies stopped us" bullshit packaged with it.
  • by fred fleenblat ( 463628 ) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:41PM (#32384178) Homepage

    how many people have to wave at it in order for it to work?

  • How is this any different from the De-sal plants that run on oil?
    • by urusan ( 1755332 )

      If everything goes well, slightly higher capital costs for greatly reduced operational costs.

      From TFA: "The company chose to work on desalination because the energy costs associated with running desalination plants are very high--as much as 40 percent or 50 percent of operating costs, according to Sandberg."

    • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

      "How is this any different from the De-sal plants that run on oil?"

      I infer from the title that it runs on wave power.

  • Here We Go! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by b4upoo ( 166390 ) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:52AM (#32387876)

    Any reverse osmosis unit that I have ever seen requires fairly clean sea water to start the process. For example yachts need to be in open water before allowing these units to be started up. Now how will this work with BPs tons and tons of crude oil mixed into the Gulf. One good gulp of oil will foul this new idea completely.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson