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Posted on October 23rd, 2012

Outside the Box – Wind Turbines and Clean Water

People have been excited about the potential of wind energy for a while now. And while in some regions of the world it is effective due to a consistent supply of strong gusts, in other areas the efficiency has been called into question. A watchdog group in Idaho even has its own website against wind energy called, sWINDle, stating that its intermittent output does not meet peak demands, and that the whole technology is a waste of money. Well, I don’t know if that is true, but there is definitely a need for research to increase the capture and production efficiency of wind energy.

What has come to light of late is the idea that wind turbines may be able to solve two problems at once: clean energy and clean water. French company Eole Water is working on this technology and one of its prototypes is producing interesting results. In even the driest climates, their design is able to condense humidity that lives in the wind. In Abu Dhabi, the Eole prototype collected over 16 gallons of water in one hour from one unit! This technology has unbelievable potential as over 20% of the world does not live near a fresh drinking water supply.

Their wind turbine, the WMS1000, is powered by a 30-kilowatt solar panel and can also be connected to existing power grids. The company’s founder, Marc Parent, says he got the idea from the condensation accumulation on his air conditioner while living in the Caribbean Islands. Air is sucked into the turbines nose and through a cooling compressor which extracts moisture from the air. The condensation then runs down stainless steel pipes to its base where an in-house filtration and purification system resides.

The current prototype has an estimated maximum water production of 1,000 liters per day. But its potential in water production is also matched by its price tag – approaching $800,000 in some instances. As with all new technology, early adopters will bear the brunt of the development costs and prices will fall quickly as more units are sold.

Because the WMS1000 creates fresh water, it offers budding hopes for places that currently rely on wells, desalination and/or lake pumping. And for many of these people, the future could hold a time when fresh water just isn’t available due to its proximity or cost as the company expects that fresh water needs will grow by 130% by 2030. Since water distribution relies on a centralization process, it is costly and inefficient. Eole hopes that the large upfront costs for the technology can be offset by reduced infrastructure and transportation costs which accompany fresh water distribution currently.

An Australian man is also working on his own wind to water system called Max Water. Max Whisson notes that water exists around us all the time. On hot, humid days, water vapor can make up as much as 6% of the air we breathe. At any given time, there exists about 10,000 billion liters of water in the world’s air, and this vapor is replaced every couple of hours as part of the water cycle. Another company called AquaMagic has a system similar to Whisson’s that is also considerably more affordable than Eole’s at about $28,000 dollars. It can produce about 120 gallons in 24 hours, but requires about 12 gallons of diesel fuel to run. These emerging wind technologies give us water for thought, and I’ll drink to that.

Justin Harmon

Staff Writer

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