Friday, May 9, 2008

Could Seawater Solve the Energy Problem?

John Kanzius' discovery that one can burn seawater by exposing it to radio waves didn't pan out as an instant source of cheap energy. As it turns out, it takes more energy to produce the radio waves than you get from burning the hydrogen that comes off the seawater.

But, another company is making waves with a different product for processing seawater. Energy Recovery Engineering manufactures a device called a PX Pressure Exchanger that recovers energy previously wasted during the process of desalinization - converting seawater to fresh water. This device has helped to bring the cost of desalinization of seawater way down. So much so, they now calculate that it would be cheaper for California to desalinate seawater than to have fresh water pumped in from Colorado, as they're currently doing.

What does this have to do with energy? Well, by producing fresh water closer to home you eliminate the need to pump it across vast distances, which uses energy. You also eliminate the need to maintain miles and miles of pipeline, which also uses energy. If this is done on a large scale, it could have a big impact on energy consumption. Consider back in the late 70's, early 80's when a 10% drop in energy consumption in the US lead to a freefall in the oil market.

Advances in desalinization could upset the apple cart in more than just the fresh water market. Plentiful, inexhaustible, affordable supplies of fresh water on both coasts and the gulf could have a major impact on both energy and water.

Stay tuned.

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