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They used to call California ocean desalination a disaster. But water crisis brings new look

Although desalination requires significant energy, California’s current extended drought has revived interest in the technology. Experts are already experimenting with new concepts such as mobile desalination units and floating buoys, and at least four major plants will soon be operational along the state’s coastline.

Some experts are already exploring new ways to overcome those hurdles. Santa Barbara-based SeaWell and its subsidiary, Ocean Portal Water Co., are working with Vandenberg Space Force Base to test the concept of floating desalination buoys. When launched, a single ocean buoy will be able to produce just short of a million gallons of drinking water a day, according to Ocean Portal President Peter Stricker.

“We really approached this from the standpoint of, what’s a better way to do desal than is currently being done so that we can get past some of the issues that desal represents,” Stricker said. “One of them is being modular and easy to deploy, another one is the environmental impacts. Another big part is energy efficiency.”

While coastal plants require energy to pull ocean water into their facilities for treatment, the large, lighthouse-shaped buoys will have the advantage of producing desalinated water directly in the ocean, so only the finished product would need to be piped to shore, Stricker said.


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