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Wind turbine to harvest energy and water from desert air

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April 18, 2012

Eolewater's WMS1000 wind-driven water-harvesting system uses on-board cooling units to chi...

Eolewater's WMS1000 wind-driven water-harvesting system uses on-board cooling units to chill the air until its moisture condenses

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We've all seen ice cold glasses and bottles dripping with condensation after cooling water vapor in the air, and though grabbing water out of thin air is not new, it took French inventor and Eolewater founder Marc Parent's umpteenth emptying of his air conditioner's condensate to envision harvesting atmospheric moisture on a commercial scale using wind turbines. After years of designs and prototypes, his proof-of-concept device, essentially a wind-powered refrigeration/condensation/filtration unit, was put in operation in the dry desert air of Abu Dhabi last October where it's been reliably extracting 130-200 gal (approx. 500-800L) of clean, fresh water a day ever since.

"Access to drinking water is a condition for life and cannot be considered a luxury reserved to developed countries," Parent said. "Humanity cannot ignore the pain of those deprived of water access and has to find new solutions." The turbine units are not designed solely for desert-use. Being self-contained makes them suitable for any isolated areas that lack the infrastructure for water and/or electricity distribution, including islands, disaster areas, etc.

Housed in a 19.7 ft x 6.5 ft (6 m x 2 m) nacelle, Eolewater's fifth generation WMS1000 water condenser system sits atop a 78 ft (24m) mast and is powered by a 30 kW wind turbine (minimum 15 mph (24 kph) wind speed required) with a 42 ft (13 m) diameter rotor. Since our atmosphere contains a reasonable amount of water (even the Sahara desert has an average relative humidity of around 25%), it's simply a matter of using the wind to generate electricity for the on-board cooling units to chill the air until its moisture condenses out.

Once the water is collected, it is filtered and sent to stainless steel tanks for storage - simple as that. Apparently, the units are so durably built that, with routine maintenance, it's estimated they'll last up to 30 years. In areas where sun abounds but the winds are unreliable, Eole has also designed the WMS-30kW Solar Panel to drive the condensation/filtration equipment. For the millions living in or adjacent to deserts and drought-prone areas around the world, that's welcome news, indeed.

Source: Eolewater via Treehugger

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic!   All articles by Randolph Jonsson
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31 Comments

If this machine can extract water from the really dry air in deserts, how much more could it produce in a humid climate, where clean drinking water is still needed?

Alien
18th April, 2012 @ 08:08 pm PDT

Electric chilling? I would have thought a straight compressor with a variable speed drive and temperature controlled ducting.

Mr Stiffy
18th April, 2012 @ 08:12 pm PDT

extra to Alien - Like Haiti for example....

Tim Parnell
19th April, 2012 @ 06:51 am PDT

Before compressor refridgeration there was cyclone refridgeration and you can get pnematic powered coolers.

They are noisy so never took on.

Instead of using electric maybe the wind could be gathered into cyclone units seprating cold air molycules from warmer.

Then use the cold air flow to cool metal plate or heat exchange unit which then cools either normal outside air or the warmer air flow so the moisture drops out.

Might be noisy but in the desert who cares. Just let the water feed into the ground so it joins the local environment. It's trees and irrigation that is needed to stop deserts expanding..

My vision is a wind gathering trumpet/trombone like mouth mounted on rotating base with a 'Dyson' cyclone unit and a simple heat exchanger...

Anyone have any ideas on this?

Karsten Evans
19th April, 2012 @ 07:51 am PDT

If the windmill compressed air so that electricity could be produced on demand the expanding gas will provide the cold to produce condensation.

ps. Use the waste heat from compression to drive another compressor.

Slowburn
19th April, 2012 @ 09:18 am PDT

the headline appears to be misleading, the energy "harvested" is used to extract the water; you don't get to use both the energy and the water. good engineering though.

John Comeau
19th April, 2012 @ 09:28 am PDT

Airwells were invented in ancient Iraq about 4.5 to 5 thousand years ago. Airwells consist of carefully selected, shaped and placed rocks in a spiral tower. With an optimal airspace and an exact inward tilt such that condensation drips down an interior path to a cistern, or quanat, in the ground at the base of an airwell. Roughly, a 30 ft tall tower, 15-20 ft in diameter can produce 1000 gallons of water per day.

Correspondingly, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan one of the Soviet's essential objectives was to bomb Airwells and thereby devastate the countryside. Prior to the Soviet invasion Afghanistan had been the world's second largest exporter of dried apricots, behind Turkey. After the invasion, the Afghan people were unable to feed themselves and were driven into urban slums.

StWils
19th April, 2012 @ 10:11 am PDT

Abu Dhabi has anything but dry desert air. It is very humid much of the time. Kudos for taking advantage of this fact. Now, how to get the population to stop consuming so much water that each person would need their own personal water harvester to offset their consumption.

hooner
19th April, 2012 @ 11:59 am PDT

re; hooner

Trying to solve problems by limiting consumption just perpetuates the problem and empowers the government. Two things I try to avoid.

Slowburn
19th April, 2012 @ 02:03 pm PDT

I live in Perth, Western Australia, and during the summer just ending there were daytime temperatures of over 40 degrees Centigrade, for 3-5 days in a row. I purchased a small "wheel around" refrigerated air cooler, which could produce anything up to 10 litres of "waste" water per day. Several years previously I'd bought a small "water from air condenser" (that I first saw in Gizmag) which produced over half the water, but filtered and sterilised, and quite delicious.

I have 1600 watts of photovoltaic panels on the roof of my house (on-grid). The air cooler consumed a maximum of 1100 watts of power. The water condenser consumed about 900 watts when condensing, and 40 watts when pumping the condensate through its multiple filters and UV light steriliser, but did nothing to cool the air inside the house, simply reducing the humidity.

So this summer I was able to run the cooler (from the photovoltaic panels) and put the condensate through the condenser filtering system. More water. And even when the outside daytime temperature was in the mid-40s, the inside temperature of the house never went above about 27 degrees Centigrade. In effect, the brighter the sun, the cooler the house.

There seems to be an invention waiting. A refrigerated air-cooler with built in filtration and sterilisation that runs off the sun. A fairly high tech solution, but it seems to work well.

@slowburn, I'm at a loss to understand how "limiting consumption just perpetuates the problem and empowers the government".

joeblake
19th April, 2012 @ 06:04 pm PDT

re; joeblake

Limiting consumption does nothing to address the shortage of a resource it just allows it to be spread over more people and in the end to force such a limit requires government involvement giving them more power.

Slowburn
19th April, 2012 @ 07:03 pm PDT

joeblake, limiting consumption does exactly what slowburn says. Very few people are as resourceful, creative and hardworking as you. That spells a business opportunity for those who know you'll never need them, but they sure can redistribute your prosperity to buy votes from those who do.

Todd Dunning
19th April, 2012 @ 07:11 pm PDT

@slowburn

"Limiting consumption does nothing to address the shortage of a resource it just allows it to be spread over more people and in the end to force such a limit requires government involvement giving them more power."

Your logic is twisted. My spreadsheets I keep on my PV power generation show that in the last 12 months, I've generated near, or even over 100% of my power consumption for 5 of those months. By doing this I've reduced my consumption, as you say making more available for others to use. This reduces the need to build more power generating infrastructure, theoretically keeping the cost of power down (or at least not rising so fast). The West Australian Government has placed a cap on the amount of renewable power generation at 150 MW, as well as removing the feed-in tariff for home generated power on the grounds that "it was too successful" ie too many people were doing it!!!

Sounds to me like those people such as myself who are reducing their power consumption have the whip hand, and are driving the government, rather than vice versa.

I have the same with my water. With a combination of rainwater tanks, home made filtration system and water generation, I've reduced my consumption of "scheme" water to such an extent that at one stage the Water Corporation replaced my water meter, thinking it was broken. (My last water bill was -$2 - ie they owed me money.

Who has the power here? Certainly not the government.

@Todd Dunning

"Very few people are as resourceful, creative and hardworking as you."

So your answer is to maintain status quo, rather than encourage them?

It isn't "hard work" at all. If you go about it resourcefully and creatively, it's very simple. It's really just a matter of using your resources (ie money) appropriately.

joeblake
19th April, 2012 @ 08:59 pm PDT

What I can't figure out is why no one is doing more research / work on vertical turbines as used in the Pearl River Tower in China. There is no danger of catastrophes like breaking blades in extra windy conditions, very small footprint and is safe for birds.

BTW the building I am talking about is some 75 storeys high and is self sufficient in energy.

http://www.gizmag.com/pearl-river-tower/14696/

pmshah
19th April, 2012 @ 10:10 pm PDT

re; joeblake

You generated more electricity and then say that using it reduced your consumption of electricity. You captured more water from the environment and say that using it reduced your water consumption.

You are not reducing consumption you are increasing supply and you say my logic is twisted.

Slowburn
19th April, 2012 @ 11:40 pm PDT

@slowburn

"You are not reducing consumption you are increasing supply and you say my logic is twisted."

Ultimately,in Western Australia, most of the electricity (which is also used to treat the water to make it drinkable), comes from the burning of non-renewable fossil fuels. THAT's the resource I'm reducing consumption of. And that's the resource the wind turbine is helping to conserve.

joeblake
20th April, 2012 @ 01:21 am PDT

Deserts are no more with enough of these babies standing.

Hell, it has the potential for 1 billion people who don't have regular access to clean drinking water to be made happy with this.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
20th April, 2012 @ 03:32 am PDT

re; joeblake

Granted you are reducing the use of fossil fuel but not by restricted energy usage but by providing an alternate energy supply. You are therefor not following a limited use model but instead using an expanded resource model.

Quit thinking of coal and solar as completely separate things.

Slowburn
20th April, 2012 @ 10:01 am PDT

I wonder if this system is anymore efficient or cost effective than building wind turbines to produce electricity and then using the electricity to run a desalination plant?

mphase
20th April, 2012 @ 12:10 pm PDT

Really enjoying this little argument (semantics) on using less or producing more. Using less implies some deprivation and who wants that(?) Though no more water is produced , it's just captured in a place that nature would not have provided. Bottom line: who cares. Providing more water and electricity while using less coal is "a big thumbs up" in my book.

Go JoeBlake...... ;}

Ed

Edward Kerr
20th April, 2012 @ 01:30 pm PDT

My purpose in mentioning ancient air well technology was to point out that available resources and materials, in this case local rock and the cold night air, can and should be combined with modern materials and technology to accomplish useful goals.

Just as the daytime sun can be used to extract humidity, warm or cool homes, generate useful electrical power, process wastes & sewage, etc., this all serves to accomplish useful goals without consuming a non-renewable resource and not coincidentally expressing waste heat and pollution along the way. Every solution to heat, cool, power up, or process some material using renewable sources should be pursued and applied wherever relevant. Every time some home owner sets up a system that effectively drops that home off or nearly off the grid the rest of the surrounding society is under slightly less stress. Any time we can consume less coal, oil, natural gas, or nukes, we all benefit.

And, yes, it is vital to see these steps as all great business opportunities. It is not irrelevant "tree hugging" but rather this is the day to day process of inventing an always moving new future.

StWils
20th April, 2012 @ 02:02 pm PDT

As I posted else where, why not have all wind turbines located in "dry" areas produce water and or electricity depending on grid need and or water need? That way tehere would always be producing something valuable!

CaptD
20th April, 2012 @ 02:03 pm PDT

I found the original post:

Imagine a new "future" Multi-Functional Wind Turbine (MFWT™) that could "shift" from producing electricity to making water as the grid load or water "need" changes!

This concept would provide a single solution to two of the major problems facing all developing Nations, a reliable source of Energy and a reliable source of Clean Water...

Maybe I'll get the first Solar O'Neill (SON) award for the idea!

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/17YRk)

+

Check this out:

A turbine that makes water from the desert air:

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/a-turbine-that-makes-water-from-the-desert-air/14701?tag=nl.e660

and this:

Israeli device takes the thirst out ...

http://is.gd/8tPLTM

Now put the two together and imagine a new "future" Multi-Functional Wind Turbine (MFWT™) that could "shift" from producing electricity to making water as the grid load or water "need" changed!

CaptD
20th April, 2012 @ 04:43 pm PDT

@slowburn

"Granted you are reducing the use of fossil fuel but not by restricted energy usage but by providing an alternate energy supply. You are therefor not following a limited use model but instead using an expanded resource model.

Quit thinking of coal and solar as completely separate things. "

Simply on the grounds that it didn't appear relevant at the time, I'd not mentioned other means I've employed to reduce my energy consumption, very few of which involve generating "replacement" electricity.

Replaced instant hot water system with solar hot water system. (Electric boosted for colder months of the year).

Replaced electric cooking with gas using a camp oven as a "slow cooker", and using a wok, which is very energy efficient.

The usual replacing incandescent light globes with more efficient ones.

Insulation of the ceiling space in my house, installation of double glazed windows and door. Both of these have meant that in winter I need no artificial heating. As an extra benefit the double glazing reduces intrusion of external sound to a very large degree.

For smaller laundry jobs, using manually operated pressurised washing machine and pedal operated spin drier. (I'm now using my second pressure washing machine, the first one, purchased in 1981, having finally worn out, though still useable.)

Supplementing use of my petrol consuming motorcycle with a solar charged, electric assisted vehicle. The vehicle carries its photovoltaic panels with it, so the battery recharges constantly.

And the list could go on.

@mphase

"I wonder if this system is anymore efficient or cost effective than building wind turbines to produce electricity and then using the electricity to run a desalination plant?"

Western Australia has two desalination plants, both of which are claimed to use at least some electricity generated by windfarms around the state. I couldn't say whether they are cost efficient or not, but at least it's a start.

joeblake
20th April, 2012 @ 06:17 pm PDT

"Imagine a new "future" Multi-Functional Wind Turbine (MFWT™) that could "shift" from producing electricity to making water as the grid load or water "need" changes! "

And storing excess water is far easier and lower tech than storing electricity. If you site your turbine/reservoir appropriately, ie high up, you don't even need to pump the water to distribute it, just use gravity. (And you may even be able to use some of the "head" of the water to generate more electricity from hydro power, so you're storing a small amount of electricity as well.)

joeblake
20th April, 2012 @ 10:50 pm PDT

re; joeblake

I have no problem with people choosing to reduce their consumption. My complaint is with people who will force me to reduce mine especially when it increases my costs and puts known toxins into my house.

ps. Insulation instead of energy consumption is an alternate resource solution.

Slowburn
21st April, 2012 @ 12:52 pm PDT

@slownburn

"My complaint is with people who will force me to reduce mine especially when it increases my costs and puts known toxins into my house. "

Nobody is going to "force" anybody to do anything. It's your choice, and nobody else's.

Since you seem to be so keen on discussing "cost" perhaps you should visit the real world.

In Mar 2009 (pre-solar electricity) I was buying electricity at 12.9 cents per kWh and my power bill for that 2 month period was $130.30

In April 2012, power (at peak period) is roughly 42 cents per kWh and my power bill for this period shows a credit of $199 for the current financial year (Jul 1- Jun 30).

This increase in "price" of power has been in large measure due to the removal of government subsidies, which meant that the tax payer dollars were being taken from other more worthwhile areas, such as hospitals and education. However, there are still more cost increases in the pipeline (projected at 28%) to achieve full cost recovery.

TANSTAAFL.

Failure of imagination is its own punishment.

joeblake
21st April, 2012 @ 08:48 pm PDT

re;

Nobody is going to "force" anybody to do anything. It's your choice, and nobody else's.

joeblake

I had to modify my shower head to get a comfortable flow because they have banned all but low flow shower heads. The Same government has banned 100 watt light bulbs as well. Do not try to tell me that the green fascists are not going to force me to do things.

Slowburn
22nd April, 2012 @ 09:01 pm PDT

"The Same government has banned 100 watt light bulbs as well"

I think you'll find that the government has banned incandescent light bulbs, which, in a 100 watt bulb will convert roughly 5% into light, the other 95% is wasted as heat. This not only increases the user's costs by consuming unnecessary electricity in the lighting itself, but since 11x100 watt bulbs generate approximately as much heat as a 1000 watt radiant heater, it also increases the cost of air conditioning within a building, so using this outdated technology increases costs all the way round.

joeblake
4th August, 2012 @ 06:34 pm PDT

Some have mentioned that if enough of these are constructed, millions of people without access to fresh water sources would benefit. That would be great; but I'm curious if there would be any substantial side-effects. That lack of moisture in the air, multiplied over thousands of units (or more) could result in altered environments across a large, possibly global, span. The change could be good or bad, but I would love to see some projected estimates on what exactly the changes would be

bma
26th November, 2012 @ 06:36 am PST

re; joeblake

What does the efficiency of a 100 watt incandescent have to do with whether they have been banned or not?

Slowburn
6th July, 2013 @ 04:49 am PDT
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