In the U.S., more and more cities rely on desalination for their water supplies. In Texas alone there are more than forty-five desalination plants scattered across the state – some along the coast and others inland, where they remove the salt from brackish groundwater.

One of the environmental arguments against desalination is that the plants use a lot of energy to produce fresh water – energy that is usually provided by fossil fuels. But Ken Rainwater of Texas Tech University says there may be a way to power desalination plants with renewable energy sources instead.

Rainwater: “An interesting thing that’s been happening in Texas is that the expansion of our wind energy production has continued, and we’re actually at a situation in some parts of our grid where we have too much wind energy available at night because the wind is still blowing but the demands are down.”

Rainwater says desalination plants could take advantage of this excess energy by operating at night.

Rainwater: “That’s one of our big dreams as we look at the big systems and how they’re managed in Texas.”

As the climate continues to warm and more communities are forced to find new sources of drinking water, wind power may help overcome one of the obstacles facing desalination.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photos: Copyright protected.

More Resources
U.S. Drought Monitor: Texas
City of Seminole: An Integrated Wind-Water Desalination Demonstration Project for an Inland Municipality
Everybody is talking about it: Is brackish groundwater the most promising “new” water?
Wind Power and Water Desalination Technology Integration
Can Sun and Wind Make More Salt Water Drinkable?

Sara Peach

Sara Peach is the Senior Editor of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist, and...