A giant solar receiver in California’s agricultural region may offer some hope for farmers who have been denied water in a record-setting drought. Conservation policies to protect endangered fish species have have contributed as well.
The receiver tracks the sun, capturing its energy to heat, desalinate and purify polluted groundwater that can then be used for crops in the drought-stricken state.
The New York Times reports it is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping some of the billions of gallons of water just beneath the surface.
The project is financed by the Panoche Water District with state funds; the $1 million solar thermal desalinization plant is removing impurities from drainage water at half the cost of traditional desalinization, according to Aaron Mandell, a founder of WaterFX.
A larger plant is to be built this year, so if the technology proves viable, it offers hope for the region.
A major challenge is the water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills. That water must now be drained to prevent it from poisoning crops.