WaterFX and SkyFuel outperform current CSP desalination systems

Published on: Friday, 24 January 2014
WaterFX and SkyFuel outperform current CSP desalination systems

WaterFX and SkyFuel have borught a CSP-desalination facility online jointly with California's Panoche Water District in Firebaugh.
After six months in operation, the 6,500 square-foot, solar-powered test facility on North Russell Avenue has produced up to 8 gallons per minute of pure water from saline discharge drainage, and will be expanded to produce 2,200 acre-feet per year.

The WaterFX Aqua4 system differs from traditional seawater desalination, which is performed by an electricity intensive reverse-osmosis process that forces salt and other solids through a membrane at high pressure. WaterFX’s Aqua4 system reclaims water using what they call "Concentrated Solar Still (CSS)", a new device with advanced solar absorption technology, requiring minimal electricity and fuel input and producing over 200 acre-feet of freshwater per acre of solar collection area.

SkyFuel's parabolic trough concentrating solar collector was installed in this trial of WaterFX's new Aqua4 solar thermal desalination technology. The single collector, which is 6 meters wide and 115 meters long, produces up to 8 gallons per minute of fresh water and will be expanded to 50 SkyTrough collectors at the same location to produce 2,200 acre-feet per year. The SkyTrough's excellent performance at converting solar radiation into heat has helped make the Aqua4™ one of the most efficient solar desalination system on the market.

Aqua4 consists of a solar thermal collector, an absorption heat pump, a multi-stage distillation system and a thermal storage unit to store solar heat and ensure 24-hour/day operation. The system is designed to deliver maximum value from renewable energy inputs and features a modular and moveable design, a compact footprint and the ability to easily scale up or down. High efficiency thermal evaporation makes the system very robust and able to achieve high recovery from a variety of water streams including drainage water, wastewater, produced water and seawater. The Aqua4 system will also reclaim extracted metals and salts, removing them from the water system entirely and eliminating brine discharge.

Aqua4 uses the SkyTrough to drive an absorption heat pump and multi-stage distillation system. Solar heat storage plus a propane heater ensure 24-hour/day operation. The design is modular and moveable, has a compact footprint, and can easily scale up or down. High efficiency thermal evaporation makes the system very robust and operates well with a variety of water streams including drainage water, wastewater, produced water and seawater. The Aqua4 system will also reclaim extracted metals and salts, removing them from the water system entirely and eliminating brine discharge. It is capable of producing over 200 acre-feet of freshwater per acre of solar collection area.

SkyFuel's Chief Commercial Officer Kelly Beninga said, "The Panoche thermal desalination project is a perfect example of the variety of industrial applications for which SkyTrough provides an ideal solar heat solution." WaterFX's Chairman and founder, Aaron Mandell added, "Skyfuel's technology is a great fit with our system. There is a lot of potential to utilize solar thermal energy to generate new sources of water in the California market."

The Panoche Water District is deploying WaterFX Aqua4™ technology as a remedy for drainage issues that have reached critical levels for the region’s agricultural industry. Irrigated water in the Central Valley contains elevated levels of salinity ranging from 15,000 to over 40,000 ppm in many regions (greater than the salt content of seawater). Meanwhile, drought-conditions throughout the state have limited access to contracted water delivered from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation through the Central Valley Project, resulting in water districts receiving only a portion of their allotted water contracts. This year, the projected allocation is expected to fall to zero. Sustainable water reuse through solar desalination can provide a scalable, alternative source of water unencumbered by the low reliability of imported water and high-energy costs.

“We are very encouraged by the results so far and are looking forward to increasing the capacity to provide a treatment solution for larger volumes of drainage water,” said Dennis Falaschi, Panoche Water and Drainage District Manager. “Farmers, in partnership with federal agencies, have invested in a solution that may soon solve drainage issues across all of California’s Westside.”

The Panoche Water District and Drainage District serves more than 44,000 acres of the Central Valley in and around Firebaugh, CA, including farmlands growing almonds, tomatoes, melons, asparagus, pistachios and alfalfa. The salinity of drainage water collected through intricate tile systems placed below irrigated crops and pumped to drainage canals necessitates designated reuse acreage that the Panoche District uses for recycling drainage water, growing salt tolerant crops and now employing water treatment technology.

“Panoche is a very forward-thinking Water District to begin exploring sustainable, alternative water reuse options and it will greatly benefit local farms,” said WaterFX Chairman and founder Aaron Mandell. “This project represents a dramatic shift in how we use and reuse water in scarce regions like California. Our long term goal is to chart a new course towards water independence and reduce the need to import water from finite natural sources; this will pave the way towards economic growth dependent on water reliability.”

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