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Published on September 10th, 2015 | by Derek Markham


California’s First Commercial Solar Desalination Plant Offering Shares Through DPO

September 10th, 2015 by  

WaterFX-solar-desalinationThe company behind what will be California’s first commercial-scale solar desalination plant is issuing $10 million in preferred stock in the venture, through a state-registered direct public offering (DPO) in California.

WaterFX Hydro I, Inc., doing business as HydroRevolution℠, a California subsidiary of WaterFX™, is offering the shares to finance the construction of a fully solar-powered desalination plant in the Central Valley, which is expected to be able to produce up to 1.6 billion gallons (5000 acre-feet) of water per year, with virtually zero liquid discharge. The HydroRevolution℠ process is said to allow for a 90% recovery rate, with the remaining brine being treated further to isolate the salt and mineral byproducts for industrial applications.

Instead of desalinating seawater, as many desalination operations do, this plant will pull water from shallow irrigation water (also called subsurface drainage water) which is produced as a consequence of agriculture, and which has a high salinity content that can be detrimental to freshwater ecosystems. This new plant is a scaled up and expanded version of the company’s demonstration desalination plant.

By desalinating irrigation drainage water with solar energy, HydroRevolution℠ aims to address two pressing agricultural issues in California, a reliable supply of freshwater and restoration of salt-impaired cropland, both of which are crucial in the drought-dominant weather cycles of one of America’s biggest food baskets.

“2015 marked the second year of 0% water allocation for agriculture in the Central Valley. Because of the current drought in California, many farmers have turned to drilling wells for freshwater to irrigate their crops, further decreasing California’s natural water reserves and contributing to land subsidence. Other farmers have had to fallow land when a sufficient supply of water could not be found for an economical price.” – WaterFX

Once completed, the plant will be the first of its kind in California, and the largest solar desalination plant in North America.

“We can shape the future when it comes to water and this public offering allows professional investors, as well as individuals, to directly participate in delivering a sustainable source of water in California. Being a part of this water revolution will provide more than just a financial return, it will put California on a course towards water independence.” – Aaron Mandell, Chairman of WaterFX

The DPO will consist of the issuance of up to 2 million shares of Series A Preferred stock at a cost of $5 per share, with a minimum investment of 400 shares for non-accredited investors and 1000 chares for accredited investors. This non-voting stock will provide a 6% annual dividend from profits from the sale of water, and purchases will be open to California residents, organizations, and corporations, with the intent of the company being majority owned by California residents.

More info about the DPO for HydroRevolution℠ is available on the WaterFX website.

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About the Author

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

  • Marion Meads

    their plant design is very bad an inefficient compared to what can be done now with today’s technology. 5,000 acre-ft per year is super tiny and uneconomical. they need to build a megadesalination plant with the scale of Israel’s. Then when they use National Oak Ridge cheaply produced porous graphene made from methane, it would use only 1% of the energy that the current desalination plant is doing, increasing throughput and reducing need for structures that generate the required renewable energy by 99 times. The end result, they can sell the water, delivered to the farmers at less than $150 per acre ft, or the $1 will buy you 2,172 gallons of freshwater. California Agriculture would be saved.

    The current desalination plant is doomed for failure if they sell to the farmers. They would target the cities that would like to buy water at $2,000 per acre-ft. That way, they can gross $10M/year instead of $0.75M/year, and California Agriculture will die.

  • Joseph Hall

    Perfect example of the power of solar energy. Sun used to make fresh water – the end of your water problems is solved. Build it and make it happen. No time to waste….

  • Jason hm

    Reverse osmosis desalination plants are much more efficient than thermal desalination systems. It makes economic sense to add Solar or wind electricity capacity to provide for a plant with a efficient standard already developed technology. I’m all up for experimentation and small proof of concept demonstration but all info I see sugest reverse Osmosis is the way forward especially with cheap renewable electricity on its way.

    A big dry state like California in A rich developed nation can help less prosperous people around the world by moving Desalination tech forward in terms of volume and price a benefit of the economies of scale California can bring to bare.

    Also we should note that renewable energy is going vertical in demand to meet the needs of expanded electricity demand. Without growth in the electrical market the renewable sector will slow as it compete with entrenched all ready payed for infrastructure. Growth is helpful not just in market share but in the total electricity market. No worries though California has the land and collective wealth to make a truly staggering amount amount of Solar electricity.

    • Larmion

      You are forgetting two important factors:

      1) The input of a RO plant is electricity; a solar thermal plant uses heat. Solar PV converts light into electricity at an efficiency of at best 20%, solar thermal converts light into heat at over 95% efficiency.

      The efficiency argument holds if you define the system only as the desalination plant itself. If you include the generation of the input energy too, the picture is more fuzzy.

      2) Solar thermal technology is much simpler – and thus cheaper – than the fairly complicated technology needed for RO installations. The absence of membranes also reduces maintenance.

      Since RO technology is still advancing rapidly (the membranes in particular are becoming more durable and cheaper), I’m in no doubt that RO will eventually come to dominate. But if you have to build a desal plant today, with current technology, it’s not as easy a choice as you suggest.

      One question still hasn’t been answered though: just how much – if any – desal capacity does CA actually need? Its household water use is still higher than that of many European countries and rainwater recovery systems are still not mandatory. Farmers are gradually increasing their water use efficiency, but continue to grow huge volumes of crops ill suited to the Californian climate.

      The greenest and cheapest desal plant is the one not built. Let’s remember that before we start cheering too much.

      • Michael G

        You raise some good points as always. Living in CA I can tell you there is a lot of finger pointing going on and temperatures are rising besides due to GHGs. Everyone is mad at everyone else about wasting water – farmers vs. city folk, those with grass lawns vs. those with native drought tolerant yards, car washes, etc., etc.

        Out of this will come some appreciation for the value of water. I already see dramatic drops in use by those that never thought about it.

        It is like anything else, you can’t solve a problem until you realize you have one.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        I’m glad you jump in here. I was going asked how so?

    • Burnerjack

      “A rich developed nation” How is it the US can be described this way and then the next day described as the world’s biggest debtor nation? Which is it? Logically, it can’t be both at the same time, right? A bit OT, I’ll admit but it really needs to be answered before a clear path can be navigated.

      • Bob_Wallace

        One way to become and stay rich is to borrow at a low rate and put the money to work or loan it out at a higher rate.

        The US, having the most trusted currency in the world, “borrows” at very attractive rates.

      • Michael G

        The US is the worlds largest economy so if all things are equal it would have the world’s largest debt. In fact, all things are *not* equal and on a debt per person the US is on the low side. Japan has much, MUCH higher debt per capita and does not suffer for it since it has a strong economy and everyone knows it can pay its debts.

        Running a country is not like running a household. The debt we owe is mostly to ourselves – bond holders are US banks, insurance cos. retirement funds. It was higher in WW-II as a percent of GDP and we “grew” out of it.

        If we can borrow at 1% to grow our economy 3% we have actually shrunk our debt in terms of our ability to pay. That was the idea behind the stimulus package and it worked – we are in much better shape than most of the rest of the world.

        • LuapLeiht1

          Lol…the stimulus worked?

          The Fed lowered interest rates to get the economy off the floor. We borrowed more money and raised our national debt in response.

          Now we literally can’t raise interest rates since doing so would bite into the current government budget. The next time the economy slows down we will have neither fiscal nor monetary tools available to turn things around.

          Tell me what a success the stimulus is when we are in the middle of the next recession.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Now there’s some deep thinking…

            We should have stayed in the Great Recession and let it turn into the Second Great Depression because otherwise we might not have high enough interest rates sometime in the future.

            Brillant. Give that contestant a free incandescent light bulb Johnny.

          • Bob_Wallace

            First, you’re way off topic so let’s end this trip into the weeds.

            Second, we exited the Great Recession. It did not turn into the Second Great Depression.

            Your concerns are noted. Now back to our regularly scheduled programing….

        • Burnerjack

          All good points but in my mind,”Cash Is King”. Having a strong economy without debt allows much more favorable activity. How much of the present deficit/tax burden is spent on debt service? What would/could be done with that money if it were being used for actual economic activity? Say, ‘Free Education/ Job Training’ for every US citizen. Good economy? It would be a juggernaut! If not that, maybe just reducing the tax burden (heaven forbid! Utter nonsense, I know!). What happens with a lower tax burden? More money in circulation, a country that appears more favorable for foreign investment and relocation. More jobs, expanding tax base. Investing in the economy is like taking on student debt to get a better job. It all makes sense. However, racking up your credit card balance to spur the economy does not.
          I got rid of all my credit cards and am “Hell Bent for Leather” to pay off my mortgage. Crazy, they told me. I go without. At the end of it all I will have 0 debt with great asset value. For me, I see no better way. You say running a country is not the same as running a household and I agree. To a point.
          At some point, I see a death spiral ensuing(in both cases). At $17 Trillion, I see that as dangerously close to the abyss, Zimbabwe style.

      • Aku Ankka

        Simply put: richness is not measured the way you think. Many rich individuals and companies also have sizable debt loads; there is absolutely nothing fundamentally bad or wrong about having debt. It’s more a question of how costly it is to maintain debt.

        Others raise additional good points, like US not having particularly high per capita debt load; but more generally it just isn’t that simple at all.

        Another simple but more useful metric is to just look at gross-domestic/national-product; and for bit more accurate picture, scale that by purchase-parity index. US is close to the top either way (the only other sizable industrial nations being, if my memory serves, Norway and Switzerland)

    • Michael G

      As for leading the way, there are 1500 desalination plants around the world. The few reverse osmosis plants being built here in CA typically use Israeli engineering cos.

      The process in this article solves a serious problem of salted farm fields as well as make water where it is needed.

      • Michael G

        My mistake – 15,000 desalination plants – not 1500 – Sorry.

        • Jaime Ramirez

          Hi Michael, what is your source? Im looking information about the number of desalination plants around the world that use solar energy. Thank you!

          • Michael G


  • Keanwood

    So the plant will make 5,000 acre-feet per year. CA uses 40,000,000 acre-feet per year. I guess we need to build a few more.

    • Ross

      $10 million for 1.6 billion gallons of water is only 160 gallons per $1 so they’ll need to scale up the output per dollar at least several times too.

      • Keanwood

        I’m (un)lucky enough to have never paid a water bill. Since I left home my apartment has had utilities included. What does water go for on an average bill? I know its cheap but just not sure how cheap.

        Also on an unrelated note. I’m amazed that so many urinals* use almost TWO gallons per flush. What the hell is that about. The flush less ones work so much better and are never broken. Every time I use the bathroom I try to imagine how much water that cumulatively uses.

        *for women who don’t know urinals usually out number toilets 3-1 in men’s restrooms. So it adds up.

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        • Ross

          I just googled wholesale prices and the range seemed to be about $2.5 – $5 per 1,000 gallons of water based on a range of factors such as whether the source was recycled, brackish, or seawater.

          • Michael G

            Very few people in the US pay for water. They pay for the transport (pipes, irrigation ditches, canals). Water is presumed free since it comes out of the sky.

            What economists call the marginal cost of water is the cost of water when the free stuff is gone. That is the *real* cost of water. Once we start paying for usable *water* and not only it’s transport, things will be a lot clearer and this method will make a lot more economic sense.

        • Aku Ankka

          If urinals really use (almost) 2 gpf, that’s insane. It sounds much higher than I would expect so I am not sure that is typical.

          Regular toilets have max of 1.6 gpf, and 1.28gpf is rather common. Ones I am getting for remodel, pressure-assisted, use less than 1 gallon (http://www.remodelista.com/products/niagara-conservation-stealth-toilet).

          • Bob_Wallace

            With the new regs in California water use in urinals will fall from a half-gallon per flush to 0.125 of a gallon. 0.47 liters.

          • Keanwood

            Yeah I’ll admit its not often I see the 2 or 1.5 gpf ones. Most are lower than that. Still the flushless ones work so much better.

      • Watery Tart

        There is also the sale of salts for industrial use they’re looking to gain as revenue…not sure what that adds up to, but should improve the gal/$ ration.

    • Michael G

      Obviously this is just a prototype and yes, we in the Western US will need to build more. The reservoirs are really, really low, and the rivers are drying up. The Colorado River no longer goes to the sea. The wells are so deep now they are getting water that is millions of years old and the ground is subsiding as the aquifers reach a point of no return and go running past it.

      I looked into it a *lot* and posted here (lots of pretty pictures and links to sources):

      People in central CA are finding their wells are dry and they are trucking in water so this is likely cheaper.

      Parts of CA don’t even meter their water – flat fee for all you can use. Stupid yes, but they never had to worry about it before. The stupidity mounts as you look at what CA agriculture is growing. The more you know the more you realize how wasteful we are.

      This is part of the CA climate which is partly exacerbated by Global Warming. Scientists are unclear how much is natural variation and how much is due to global warming. Estimates of around 25% due to global warming seems common.

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