Investigating the Opportunity for Wind-Powered Desalination in Arizona

Project ID: 2326
Principal Investigator: Tom Poulson
Research Topic: Desalination and Water Treatment
Funded Fiscal Years: 2008
Keywords: None

Research Question

Over the past few years, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has funded some preliminary GIS mapping work at Northern Arizona University (NAU) to identify regions where wind powered desalination might be feasible. This work has focused on developing mapping techniques to identify opportunities nationally and with more detail regionally.

The purpose of this proposal is to apply the mapping technique in Arizona, specifically in areas of the state with a potential need to develop saline water resources, and to propose a conceptual design for a wind-desalination facility and to evaluate its economic feasibility. Where wind-desalination looks feasible, one question to be addressed will be to determine if, for economic viability, the wind and desalination facilities need to be co-located or if one could develop them in separate places and connect them through the utility grid. Also, this Science and Technology (S&T) Program research project will strive to understand if there is any potential to run desalination equipment directly from wind energy.

Need and Benefit

Wind power is a rapidly expanding utility-scale energy resource in the U.S. and throughout the world. The installed capacity of wind energy in the U.S. has increased from around 2,500 megawatts (MW) in 2000, to nearly 12,000 MW at the end of 2006. The total capacity worldwide is in excess of 74,000 MW and is expected to grow at nearly 20 percent per year for the next few years. As wind energy becomes common in the utility system and for stand-alone applications and as system planners and operators become comfortable with how to accommodate the variability and uncertainty of wind energy, more applications for wind turbine systems will arise.

Renewable wind energy could allow the desalination of brackish ground water in remote locations which are not on the electrical grid. For example, the Navajo Nation has vast areas of land with little electrical power, and they also have large brackish ground water reserves. In addition, renewable wind energy can reduce the cost of operation of reverse osmosis facilities in select locations.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20