Chilean solar desalination demo precurses pilot project

A demonstration solar-powered desalination plant was installed in mid‑March 2013 in Arica, Chile, by Fundación Chile, in advance of a pilot project for irrigation purposes.

The plant was opened at the Padre Francisco Napolitano del valle de Lluta agricultural school by the mayor of the region and the secretaries of public works and agriculture.

The Lluta river basin is widely used for agriculture in the Arica and Parinacota regions, but the river and its main tributaries have high concentrations of salts and any future impoundment would feature this water quality. This strong salt water restricts the water’s use for agriculture to generate higher value added products.

The project involves the development of a production process of irrigation water using membrane separation technologies with low energy consumption, simple in its construction and operation.

“What we want is to demonstrate the use of membrane technology with low energy consumption, using solar energy for brackish water conditioning at competitive prices,” said Carolina Cuevas, head of solar projects for Fundación Chile. The foundation is a private non-profit organization created in 1976, whose partners are the Government of Chile and BHP Billiton’s Minera Escondida.

The main results of this project will be: a pilot plant built and operated in agricultural land; market research; a business model to commercialize the technology; and a dissemination plan.