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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: 5, Interesting) by Khyber on Monday February 17 2014, @07:27PM

    by Khyber (54) on Monday February 17 2014, @07:27PM (#970) Journal
    First off, the desalination plant would be more efficient switching to powered RO using graphene filters. They could generate their own operative power plus some for the grid, and have much higher throughput.

    Secondly, the problem is that the majority of our water is used for agriculture. Traditional land agriculture is extremely, wasteful as far as water is concerned. It takes 100,000 gallons of water to produce an acre of fodder grass for livestock.

    Of course, we've got a solution for that, as well.

    *DISCLAIMER: I AM HEAVILY INVOLVED WITH THE COMPANY YOU'RE ABOUT TO SEE*

    Enclosed vertical farms like this [youtube.com] can occupy 1/8 of an acre and only use 1,000 gallons to produce the same amount of fodder grass. This same technology drastically reduces the need for space, water, and nutrient waste, and can be entirely solar-powered, with a power generation surplus, depending upon your crop.

    The technology and engineering I have today can make this almost a non-issue, with the exception of certain crops (like our nut-bearing trees.)
    --
    Destroying Semiconductors With Style Since 2008, and scaring you ill-educated fools since 2013.
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  • (Score: 1) by edIII on Monday February 17 2014, @07:30PM

    by edIII (791) on Monday February 17 2014, @07:30PM (#975)

    Vertical farms are an excellent idea. I'm happy to see effort being put into them.

    --
    Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
  • (Score: 1) by takyon on Monday February 17 2014, @08:04PM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday February 17 2014, @08:04PM (#1014) Journal

    I'm also eagerly awaiting the day that vertical farming becomes commonplace.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 1) by Cactus on Monday February 17 2014, @09:09PM

    by Cactus (32) on Monday February 17 2014, @09:09PM (#1084) Journal

    Very cool. Been wanting to play with similar things at home but can never quite make the time to put it together. Always good to see stuff like that.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by NovelUserName on Monday February 17 2014, @10:36PM

    by NovelUserName (768) on Monday February 17 2014, @10:36PM (#1134)

    I think the point of the proposed plant is that distillation is a pretty cheap thing to set up and run compared to filtration methods. I'm guessing the fact that it's power inefficient doesn't quite make up the difference in cost.

    I've been intrigued by aquapoincs [wikipedia.org] for a while, so I'm slightly familiar but not an expert. I thought that most of the high-density water-based crop technologies used greenhouses because the costs to locally generate power for grow-lights were infeasible. The other issue with these solutions is the nutrient stock- generating the chemicals for a hydroponic solution, or the fish-food in aquaponics systems means you've just pushed the environmental effects off one tier. For commercial farming this might not be a big downside since they currently use all the chemicals anyway, and waste a bunch of water on top of that.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Khyber on Monday February 17 2014, @10:59PM

      by Khyber (54) on Monday February 17 2014, @10:59PM (#1151) Journal

      The costs of LEDs have come WAY down, their efficiencies have gone WAY UP (hovering at 50% efficiency power in/light out) and the feasibility of solar powering the entire thing is better than good. That much has been solved.

      Pushing the environmental effects off one tier may not be necessary. The desalination plant itself could use the harvested salts and make fertilizer from them (after a bit of centrifugal processing to remove many of the heavier metals) and have another useful product. Look up SEA-90 to see what I mean.

      --
      Destroying Semiconductors With Style Since 2008, and scaring you ill-educated fools since 2013.