Quietly whirring away in a dusty field in the Central Valley is a shiny solar energy machine that may someday solve many of California’s water problems.
It’s called the WaterFX solar thermal desalination plant, and it has been turning salty, contaminated irrigation runoff into ultra-pure liquid for nearly a year for the Panoche Water and Drainage District. It’s the only solar-driven desalination plant of its kind in the country.
Right now its efforts produce just 14,000 gallons a day. But within a year, WaterFX intends to begin expanding that one small startup plant into a sprawling collection of 36 machines that together can pump out 2 million gallons of purified water daily.
Within about five years, WaterFX company co-founder Aaron Mandell hopes to be processing 10 times that amount throughout the San Joaquin Valley. And here’s the part that gets the farmers who buy his water most excited: His solar desalination plant produces water that costs about a quarter of what more conventionally desalinated water costs: $450 an acre-foot versus $2,000 an acre-foot.
In a wet year, the costs are $300 an acre-foot. And much higher in dry years. If they can accomplish their business plan, they could not only change water usage in the Valley but make a ton of money.
Something to watch for. as this can expand to many other areas, allowing us tio essentially recycle the water we use.