WA university eyeing geothermal energy for desalination
The University of Western Australia (UWA) announced on 6 June 2012 that researchers at the university will investigate the use of geothermal energy to desalinate groundwater in Western Australia (WA).Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb, director of the WA Geothermal Centre of Excellence at UWA, said it was the first phase of a feasibility program to investigate and encourage use of geothermal and waste-heat resources for heat-driven pretreatment and desalination of brackish and saline water.
The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia provided Aus$ 125,000 (US$ 124,000) funding for the project, which was driven by a desire to boost water supplies for the Integrated Water Supply Scheme. The scheme services Perth and Mandurah by treating brackish water that is currently available but unused.
"This use of geothermal power to desalinate water through multi-effect distillation, preheating and reverse osmosis can also work in regional and remote areas where the cost of water and energy is far higher," Regenauer-Lieb explained.
The professor said the project would provide WA government and industry with an economic, technical and market analysis of geothermal energy coupled with water production, and identify areas in the state where the technology may be best applied.
"We will identify the main factors that enable local water supplies to be produced with local renewable energy to help overcome the expense of bringing both water and energy to sites that lack these resources," he said. "It will also help reduce competition for scarce fresh water resources in those parts of Australia where geothermal energy can be economically used to improve water quality."
Based on the need for reasonably priced potable water and electricity from companies based in remote mining areas, the CSIRO, the WA Geothermal Centre of Excellence and representatives of the state government combined to examine the potential of geothermal resources and symbiotic heat-driven technologies to meet these needs. The project group includes the Water Corporation, the Department of Water and the Pilbara Cities Office of the Department of Regional Development & Lands.
As well as servicing industry needs, there was also huge potential to assist tourist precincts, smaller towns and Indigenous communities, and larger residential/ commercial operations, said Regenauer-Lieb, who will also present the 2012 George Seddon Lecture at UWA on 27 June 2012 on the topic of Australia's first steps towards "Geothermal Cities".
The professor pointed out the example of Rottnest Island, which desalinates seawater using wind power.
"Geothermal power can provide base load electricity supplies to tourist precincts because of its 24/7 availability," he said.