Wind Power Will Help Texas Town Desalinate Groundwater

AUSTIN, Texas, April 25, 2008 (ENS) – The first project in the United States to use wind power to desalinate drinking water for an inland municipality rather than a coastal town has just received a $500,000 grant from the Texas state Office of Rural Community Affairs, ORCA.

The $1.075 million pilot project utilizing wind power to desalinate brackish groundwater in West Texas will be located in the small city of Seminole in Gaines County.

The project holds promise for rural communities in West Texas and the Panhandle that need to develop new sources of drinking water, said ORCA Executive Director Charlie Stone. “This project could be a roadmap for how our rural communities can use wind power to help meet future water needs,” he said.

Seminole’s proposal to ORCA calls for groundwater to be pumped from the deep, brackish Santa Rosa aquifer. A 50-kilowatt wind turbine will help power a reverse osmosis plant that will transform the water from brackish to sweet enough for the town’s 6,000 residents to drink.

ORCA is partnering with Texas Tech University, which has been working for three years with Seminole on the design and economics of wind-driven groundwater desalinization systems.

“This project represents an innovative approach ORCA can take to help rural communities meet basic human needs, such as clean, reliable sources of drinking water,” said. Dr. Wallace Klussmann, chairman of ORCA’s governing board.
The Gaines County Courthouse in Seminole, Texas (Photo by Robert E. Weston Jr.)
Seminole now draws its drinking water from the depleted Ogallala Aquifer – the town has no access to surface water supplies. Seminole currently uses about two million gallons per day on average from the Ogallala aquifer.

“As Ogallala Aquifer supplies decline and drinking water standards become more stringent, some cities are faced with increased costs for treatment as well as increased pumping costs from a deeper aquifer,” said Ken Rainwater, director of the Texas Tech Water Resources Center. “Wind power can provide locally generated, renewable energy for treatment.

If the project is successful, Seminole plans to install three megawatts of wind turbines to power a reverse osmosis plant large enough treat a future peak demand of three million gallons of water per day.

In addition to the ORCA grant, the project calls for Seminole to contribute $400,000 in cash, land and in-kind services.

Texas Tech will contribute $25,000 in data collection and analysis and Entegrity Wind Systems will donate for two years a wind turbine valued at $150,000. After two years, Entegrity likely would lease the turbine to the city.

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