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Energy Efficiency

Published on February 16th, 2008 | by Joe Mohr

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Low-Energy Water Desalination From Seawater Greenhouse



greenhouse_wl_2423.jpgThree-hundred twenty-six million trillion! It sounds like a number I would come up with as a kid, say, in reference to the number of things I find disgusting about my sister, or the number of reasons I need a new bike, or the number of mosquito bites I got on a weekend camping trip. But, it turns out, 326 million trillion is a real number. It happens to be (approximately—because who could count them all?) the number of gallons of water on our wonderful planet (Earth). That’s an overwhelming, impressive and — when you learn that 98% of that water is ocean water, and therefore too salty to consume, or use for irrigation — frustrating figure!

In these times where climate chaos has caused more frequent severe droughts, and our population continues to grow (read: consume water) at an awesome rate, people are becoming more and more concerned with water conservation. Humanity finds itself increasingly at a loss for freshwater while roughly 315 million trillion gallons of unusable seawater taunts us from our shores.

Sure, desalination plants are becoming more common. They are very expensive, however, and so energy intensive that they only further contribute to the climate change they are attempting remedy (thereby, joining corn-based ethanol as the two largest non-solutions to our climate problems).

Fear not my fellow water-loving earthlings! There is an even better way to remove the salt from salt water: a Seawater Greenhouse! This UK-based company explains the process as one that:

uses seawater to cool and humidify the air that ventilates the greenhouse and sunlight to distill fresh water from seawater. This enables the year round cultivation of high value crops that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to grow in hot, arid (conditions).

The overall process produces water at the energy cost of less than 3kWh/m3. I can think of 326 million trillion reasons to get excited about this solution! For more information on the Seawater Greenhouse visit www.seawatergreenhouse.com.

Image: Seawater Greenhouse, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Source: Seawater Greenhouse Gallery

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About the Author

is an Environmental/Political cartoonist for Planetsave, Elephant Journal, Wend Magazine, Twilight Earth, Ecopolitology, EcoSnobberySucks, and more... Joe also does a kids enviro-toon called Hank D and the Bee on EcoChildsPlay and NaturalPapa. Joe lives in University City, Missouri and spends his free time with his beautiful wife, enthusiastic daughter, and curious toddler of the same name. He also enjoys writing, drawing, painting, walking, biking, skateboarding, gardening, reading, listening to music, playing sports, and watching plays (especially the plays his wife's site-specific theatre company, Onsite Theatre puts on).   Visit Joe's online cartoon gallery at JoeMohrToons.com.



  • Marion Meads

    Using greenhouse method IS NOT EFFICIENT!!! It seems to be very capital intensive. Why is there a need for additional 3kWh of energy per m3 of water? Why not let the sun do it all alone? There are other more efficient desalination technology out there and are totally solar powered without additional electricity nor energy input. Can the author point out the solar energy use and the overall efficiency of the system? We know that greenhouse method has one of the least efficiency when it comes to desalination.

  • Pingback: Teatro del Agua: The Seawater Greenhouse “That Can Change the World” | LumoSolar.com - Solar Power & Energy Information

  • http://www.green-house-plan.com/ Eoin Beckett

    It’s comforting to know that, a) there are still trillions of gallons of water left in the sea, and b) we can soon start drinking it. I wonder what the dolphins will think.

    Seriously though, thanks for an eye-opening article, and one so full of hope.

  • http://www.green-house-plan.com/ Eoin Beckett

    It’s comforting to know that, a) there are still trillions of gallons of water left in the sea, and b) we can soon start drinking it. I wonder what the dolphins will think.

    Seriously though, thanks for an eye-opening article, and one so full of hope.

  • Marybeth

    This baby boomer is so grateful that the children of the baby boomers are rocking this subject to the forefront and taking care of their little boomlets and those to follow…you are never too old to learn or change!!

  • Marybeth

    This baby boomer is so grateful that the children of the baby boomers are rocking this subject to the forefront and taking care of their little boomlets and those to follow…you are never too old to learn or change!!

  • Kristen

    Great info, and very well written. 326 million trillion thanks to the people who work so hard at keeping us informed and making us all better global residents.

  • Kristen

    Great info, and very well written. 326 million trillion thanks to the people who work so hard at keeping us informed and making us all better global residents.

  • jeffrey landsberg

    great piece of info. thanks

  • jeffrey landsberg

    great piece of info. thanks

  • http://www.greenocean.org Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson

    Some more resources about the Seawater Greenhouse can be found here. http://www.greenocean.org/

  • http://www.greenocean.org Thomas Bjelkeman-Pettersson

    Some more resources about the Seawater Greenhouse can be found here. http://www.greenocean.org/

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