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posted by Cactus on Monday February 17 2014, @07:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the It's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
similar_name writes:

As part of a project developed by San Francisco area start-up WaterFX, a giant solar receiver in Firebaugh, CA, rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity, but instead creates heat used to desalinate water. The goal is to tap the abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface.

The water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills, and is so polluted that it must be constantly drained to keep it from poisoning crops. This, coupled with the record-breaking drought that California is facing means that irrigation costs are going to double or triple as farms are forced to buy water on the spot market.

"Food prices are going to go up, absolutely", said Dennis Falaschi, manager of the Panoche Water District. "This year, farmers in the Panoche district will receive no water. Last year, they received only 20 percent of their allocation", Mr. Falaschi said. In 2012, the allocation was 40 percent. Farmers elsewhere who rely on the State Water Project to irrigate 750,000 acres of farmland will also receive no water in 2014.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @07:59PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @07:59PM (#1008)

    To generate electricity from a gas turbine, the water needs to be heated to well above the boiling point, otherwise water will condense on the blades of the turbines and cause huge corrosion problems. In any situation where you have water that is already very hot, you can install some additional equipment to heat it enough for use in a steam turbine, but the additional expense is not always worthwhile.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by sl4shd0rk on Monday February 17 2014, @08:02PM

    by sl4shd0rk (613) on Monday February 17 2014, @08:02PM (#1012)

    Seems to be working for these guys*. "The boilers superheat steam to temperatures of up to 550° C (over 1,000° F), which drives standard turbines to generate electricity."

    * - 862/ []

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Monday February 17 2014, @08:46PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 17 2014, @08:46PM (#1059)

      The problem is their future plant is only generating about a million bucks in water revenue per year, its really a very small plant, and high pressure boilers and turbines don't scale well to small size. So maybe 2 or 4 generations in the future, maybe if they successfully expand by a factor of ten each generation of plant...

      In the long run it is probably a good idea for a future much larger plant.