El Paso to explore solar power for desalination plant

The City of El Paso Public Service Board voted on 10 February 2010 to explore the possibility of using solar power at the Kay Bailey Hutchison desalination plant in Texas, USA.

A joint project of El Paso Water Utilities and the US Army’s Ft Bliss, the facility can produce 27.5 MGD (104,000 m³/d) of fresh water from brackish groundwater making it a critical component of the region’s water portfolio. Opened in 2007, it currently produces about 3.5 MGD (13,000 m³/d) using only one of its five reverse-osmosis (RO) trains.

The solar project would be staged during the next 15 years, costing US$ 8 million for the first phase and US$ 20 million in total. The board still needs to give final approval for the project to get under way.

The utility spends about US$ 540,000 a year to power one RO train at the plant. Solar power could cut that bill in half, Ed Archuleta, the utility’s CEO and president told the El Paso Times. As the other trains are brought on line to meet demand for water, savings could be greater, Archuleta said. Rising electricity cost would lead to even more savings.