Print 48 comment(s) - last by jlips6.. on Mar 6 at 7:06 PM

The windmill uses reverse-osmosis to produce enough water for 500 people a day. The device also stores 5 days worth of water, and has mechanical safeguards to protect it.  (Source: TU Delft)

The new windmill desalination system is purely mechanical... no electrical components necessary!  (Source: TU Delft)
New high-tech Windmill promises clean, fresh drinking water to many ocean-bordering villages, worldwide

The problematic lack of clean drinking water plagues many impoverished nations worldwide.  Many people do not realize that even nations bordering the sea often suffer water shortages and drink contaminated water.  A new high-tech windmill aims to provide relief for the third-world's water crisis. 

The new windmill can purify salt water purely by wind-driven mechanical energy.  The windmill was designed at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands.  It runs by using the wind's mechanical force to pump water, and utilizes a high tech reverse osmosis membrane.  The pumped water is pushed against this membrane at approximately 60 bar of pressure, and the salt is kept inside while pure water travels across the membrane.

The windmill setup is estimated to 5 to 10 m3 of fresh water a day, based on the device’s capacity at varying wind speeds.  Such output could provide a village of up to 500 people with drinking water.  Water reservoirs will store enough water for five days, in order to avoid water shortages during non-windy days.  The device also has three mechanical safeguards built in to protect it if the installation runs dry, if the installation experiences too low revolutions, or if the installation experiences too high revolutions.  No electrical controls are needed to accomplish these safeguards.

Previous windmill/reverse osmosis setups have been used, but never has the mechanical energy been used to directly fuel the process.  In previous setups, the windmill was used to generate electricity, which was then stored, and used to power a pump driving the reverse osmosis at a much lower efficiency. 

The windmill setup is currently near the A13 motorway outside Delft.  It will be transported to Curaçao for field testing using salt water later this week.  TU Delft hopes to offer similar devices to small villages in dry, isolated coastal areas. 

The fact that the purely mechanical process is superior in terms of efficiency and simplicity to the electro-mechanical system is a reminder that in this modern world of high tech electronics, sometimes the most "high tech" solution is one with no electronics at all.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Just salt?
By ICBM on 3/4/2008 10:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
Getting out salt is good, but what about bacteria and other harmful contaminants?

RE: Just salt?
By GaryJohnson on 3/4/2008 11:15:10 AM , Rating: 2
Just add chlorine?

RE: Just salt?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/4/2008 11:35:31 AM , Rating: 3
Generally this is the process. There is a pre-treatment process usually using lower grade filters to protect the osmosis membrane, then a post treatment process to add chlorine and alkalinity to the potable output. The osmosis filter should be very good at removing almost all salt and inorganic material.

RE: Just salt?
By Oregonian2 on 3/4/2008 4:03:48 PM , Rating: 2
Know how long the membrane lasts? My mother lives near Vegas and her drinking water reverse osmosis thing requires attention from time to time, and although the salts in Lake Mead water is pretty high, I should image the ocean to be higher (or maybe not ;-).

RE: Just salt?
By Hare on 3/4/2008 12:19:51 PM , Rating: 5
Maybe the windmill could even run a small generator which would give enough electicity to power a UV-light array?

RE: Just salt?
By eye smite on 3/4/2008 12:40:01 PM , Rating: 3
After reading the comments on this I'm guessing there's some undesirables in salt water. I'm not versed on the contents of ocean water so I'm asking this question not to sound dumb, but rather curious. How much in the way of bacteria and fungus could survive in salt water? My impression was always that salt kills most everything or close to it in water, hence saltwater swimming pools.

RE: Just salt?
By Hare on 3/4/2008 1:20:30 PM , Rating: 3
My impression was always that salt kills most everything or close to it in water

You might want to try scuba diving ;)

RE: Just salt?
By TITAN1080 on 3/4/08, Rating: -1
RE: Just salt?
By kenji4life on 3/4/2008 3:48:11 PM , Rating: 2
Good eatin' too.

RE: Just salt?
By Micronite on 3/5/2008 12:52:44 AM , Rating: 2
While I can appreciate that this guy didn't really think about his comment before writing it, I'm still trying to figure out where your Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh comment came from.
Can you share a contextual reference that ties these individuals to the belief that there is no ocean life?

RE: Just salt?
By Pythias on 3/4/2008 6:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
Greenpeace says chlorine is EVIL!

RE: Just salt?
By rcc on 3/5/2008 1:13:45 PM , Rating: 3
Chlorine says Greenpeace is evil.

So, do you believe a chemical, or a terrorist organization? : )

RE: Just salt?
By jlips6 on 3/6/2008 7:06:37 PM , Rating: 2
greenpeace says a lot of things. Most of them are pointless because greenpeace has no science behind it. I'm all for some of what they want, but not for their reasons, and not because of what they say. I know we can't legally shut them down, but can we please just hire some snipers behind the scenes? it would save us all a lot of whining.

RE: Just salt?
By blueeyesm on 3/4/2008 11:24:21 AM , Rating: 2
The link explains how the water is purified.

RE: Just salt?
By Misty Dingos on 3/4/2008 12:02:24 PM , Rating: 3
Hey I am all for everyone having clean drinking water. But how long does the RO filter last? How expensive is it? If you live in a village that has four goats, two camels, a cow and some chickens I am thinking that you will be selling your kidneys on the black market to get replacement RO filters.

Cost and locally available supplies are some of the requirements of a 2004 initiative to provide arsenic free water to poor areas of the world. This program seemed to have their head wrapped around the idea that people in these villages don't have Blackberrys in their back pockets with contacts to the Culligan man.

What I am saying is that if they can't do it locally then you might be dooming these folks to a Fallout'esq senario. Got a waterchip anyone?

RE: Just salt?
By retrospooty on 3/4/2008 12:17:50 PM , Rating: 3
RO is really not that complicated, or difficult to replace parts. One would assume the same entity that supplies the windmill will supply replacement filters and membranes. You dont just give an area an RO windmill and tell them, "your on your own now, go figure out how to use it!".

RE: Just salt?
By Misty Dingos on 3/4/2008 2:47:35 PM , Rating: 1
Not to be too blunt but many of the clean safe water projects in the developing world have been just like that.

"Here it is. Good luck! It is all yours and by the way don't call us we already did our good deed for the day."

RE: Just salt?
By kenji4life on 3/4/2008 3:56:30 PM , Rating: 2
Not to be blunt but if volunteer workers dig a well in a third world country and get water running, and also (they usually do) does their part to educate the people about the well and how it should be used and cared for (and rationed), they sure as heck should then say "Here it is, good luck. It's all yours and doubt you'll be able to call us because obviously if we are digging you a well you aren't gonna bust out your cell phone to call us and complain because you don't have one.

It's one thing to stand aside while others volunteer to help the less fortunate in the world, but it's another thing to pretend they are doing a disservice by digging people wells.

I somehow doubt you'd ever put your life aside to help others before you'd criticize those who do.

RE: Just salt?
By kenji4life on 3/4/2008 4:00:43 PM , Rating: 2
Missed an end quote there..

BTW like I said, wasn't trying to be blunt. Maybe think about it before you say something next time. If you actually have first hand experience going overseas and digging a well and then leaving in rush and saying "don't call", that's your prerogative, or perhaps you lived in a third world country and had people come and dig you a well only to have it dry out, of course I seriously doubt the latter, but even if one of these two scenarios fits you, let it be known that you speak from experience.

Until then your comment just sounds ignorant.

RE: Just salt?
By bety on 3/4/2008 8:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you're the one who sounds ignorant, or at the very least, that you are having an emotional and illogical reaction.

Emotional, in that you are very angry about a important and relevant issue that was raised.

Illogical, in your assertions that he must be involved in the type of activity before he can comment about them. This, of course, is not rational on many levels. First, most of us(VERY FORTUNATELY) need not participate in an activity before evaluating it critically. Second, the issue of how much of his resources he wishes to invest in such endeavors is not relevant and simply an ad hominem attack.

Further, I'd suggest it is you who should do some research. History is rife with projects which failed because of these issues. In so doing,millions(billions?) have been wasted. Money which could have saved lives. Questions like his, are in fact, the FIRST questions we should be asking when it comes to practical application. Otherwise this is just lab work with no ecological application.

RE: Just salt?
By Rovemelt on 3/4/2008 12:16:11 PM , Rating: 2
Bacteria can't get through the membrane, and without food in the reservoir, the bacterial count should stay low.

RE: Just salt?
By Pandamonium on 3/4/2008 1:38:46 PM , Rating: 2
If the membrane is impermeable to small ions, I doubt bacteria can get past it.

RE: Just salt?
By eman7613 on 3/4/2008 3:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
easy, boil the watter, bacteria dies. same way you avoid malaria.

RE: Just salt?
By Bloodlust on 3/5/2008 10:32:58 AM , Rating: 2
Reverse Osmosis membrane cartridges remove viruses, bacteria, and other contaminants at around 99.9% efficiency. Only a small amount of chlorine or other disinfectant will need to be added afterwards to prevent growth of bateria and algae in the ditribution system. While costly to replace, these cartridges are becoming cheaper as more systems are built. Desalination of salt water is the future as surface and ground water supplies become scarce.

By cubeless on 3/4/2008 11:08:37 AM , Rating: 2
they'll still need a chlorine drip treatment for bacteria, etc, most likely to be up to '1st world' standards, but lots of 3rd world drink from 'unsanitized' sources... but just getting the water is most of the battle...

and the cost is less than going electric in the long run... fewer pieces = less cost... and without the generator and batteries there's less chance the thing will be stolen to power someone's lights and bigscreen...

the problem is the backwash of the hypersalty water and the protection/replacement of the r/o membrane... but these issues are the same no matter what method for moving the water is...

By Lightning III on 3/4/2008 11:51:29 AM , Rating: 2
low power uv flouresents might be a better choice for third world and green minded types.

By cubeless on 3/4/2008 12:09:16 PM , Rating: 4
same problem with complexity and stealability... u need the simplest, most single purpose methods...

'green' is only an issue some ways down the road from 'alive'... eventually the well to do may start to understand this...

By Ringold on 3/4/2008 7:52:10 PM , Rating: 3
eventually the well to do may start to understand this...

Don't count on it. :P

In the end, to some people, since humanity < polar bears, therefore, CO2 > extreme poverty.

By rcc on 3/5/2008 1:19:06 PM , Rating: 2
the problem is the backwash of the hypersalty water

I'm not sure this is really a problem, but if it is, they could flush it to drying trays and provide salt for the village as well.

I must wonder...
By Souka on 3/4/2008 10:58:36 AM , Rating: 2
I must wonder...why this hasn't been done before. What new "breakthrough" or device allows direct mechanical pumping of an osmatic filtering device?

I do see the effeciencies of this type of setup vs. a typical windmill electrical generator setup...which then needs to use its electricty to drive a pump for the filter...this is really neat.

Also... how much will it save a village over the course of a year...5 years...10 years....compared to a conventional setup?

RE: I must wonder...
By cubeless on 3/4/2008 11:17:29 AM , Rating: 4
someone not interested in selling generators and batteries came up with this...

and the electromechanical system can be regulated better (can make the r/o membrane last longer) and smoothes out the ebb and flow of wind availability and force...

just another case where 'simpler and cheaper' can get the job done sufficiently...

RE: I must wonder...
By geddarkstorm on 3/4/2008 12:13:35 PM , Rating: 2
Electromechanical is not the end all. People sometimes forget that good engineering is most important. A good design can smooth out the ebb and flow passively without electronics--and it sounds like this thing does that, has greater efficiency than electronics, and passive safeguards instead of active electronic ones (passive is almost always better if it can be practically implemented). No troublesome batteries, wire/sensor corrosion, or electrical pump to break down on top of the actual windmill system itself.

why just 3rd world?
By diablofish on 3/4/2008 12:16:01 PM , Rating: 3
Why not test these in California? There are a lot of issues with the water system in the western US...

RE: why just 3rd world?
By retrospooty on 3/4/2008 12:23:51 PM , Rating: 2
Crystal Geyser, Arrowhead, and Aquafina have that market cornered.

RE: why just 3rd world?
By kenji4life on 3/4/2008 4:14:09 PM , Rating: 2
I stayed in a hotel between SF and LA once and the entire town had a water outage, which the hotel failed to tell us when we checked in. We felt less annoyed when we went out and saw that the entire town had to deal with it too, but still ripped off because half the reason we wanted a hotel was so we could shower. :\

Win some you lose some.

What is m3 equal to in gallons
By PAPutzback on 3/4/2008 11:02:03 AM , Rating: 1
Can't a farm of this irrigate land. If it make more than the back uptank can hold can excess going into a retention pond.

Any does the salt get rinsed off mechanically or do the filters have to be swapped out frequently.

Perhpas this same tech can be put into a tidal generator type setup. Wind might not be around but there is always a tide.

By cubeless on 3/4/2008 11:12:46 AM , Rating: 3
usually with r/o the 'dirty' side gets flushed to some point out further than the 'intake' side... with ocean desalination it's not so much a problem (pump the dross out a ways into the ocean) but for inland systems the handling of the detritus becomes more problematic...

what if...
By jlips6 on 3/4/2008 12:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
if you look at the picture, you find that they are using windmills that are quite small. If you hook this up to a modern windmill that can power 300 homes on a windy day... you would practically have to build a water tower by it. :0

RE: what if...
By Raidin on 3/5/2008 3:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
This is probably a cost issue. A windmill that can provide 500 villagers with water every day will cost substantially less. This also sounds like a per-village solution, I doubt it's intended target will ever need the ones you mentioned.

On top of that, this windmill is probably far easier to transport, build, and maintain. I'm sure it's tall enough to allow for mostly-windy conditions 24/7.

RE: what if...
By jlips6 on 3/6/2008 7:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
Just so you know, I'm not trying to say any of your points are not valid, because they are. But have you heard of the Bruce Penninsula? They have the kind of windmills I'm talking about. They are relatively inexpenxive (for a 130 ft. windmill :p) to build, fast to build, and produce amazing amounts of energy. they literally go up in less than a week. Farmers are building them in their fields. They're everywhere. They don't cost that much. I'm not talking about a windmill for 500 villagers, I'm talking about a windmill farm by the ocean for mass purification.

Another "Cape Wind?"
By enlil242 on 3/4/2008 12:36:13 PM , Rating: 3
This sounds like a fantastic idea, but I am afraid that it will not see the light of day ... as long as the likes of Ted Kennedy and his ilk block innovations like this (It's ok to think green, as long as it doesn't block the view from their seaside homes) these projects will never go forward...

RE: Another "Cape Wind?"
By Ringold on 3/4/2008 8:08:04 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't for Cape Cod..

Think more along the lines of Liberia, Somalia, Nigeria..

Not that I don't sympathize with your point completely, that proposed off shore windfarm was proof of hypocrisy (similar to people in Florida whining about the price of oil when we refuse to allow off shore drilling), but just saying, different audience entirely.

This is a great example
By Hulk on 3/4/2008 11:14:46 AM , Rating: 2
of how our energy problems will be solved. Not with one or two all encompassing solutions, but with many different types of technologies, each suited to a particular region and generation requirement. Here they are skipping the step of creating electricity and going right to driving the pump. Saving money on both an electrical generator and a method to store the energy (batteries). Pumping and desalinating the water in one step to a higher gravitational potential is an elegant method to store the excess energy from the wind for non-windy days.


Clean water.
By krenogin on 3/4/2008 12:52:18 PM , Rating: 2
For everyone questioning the water being dirty/clean. It says in the title "Clean" So i'm assuming it may purify also.

Great but...
By martinrichards23 on 3/4/2008 1:05:30 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds brilliant, but in similar devices i have seen before the problem was always that the membranes need to be replaced more often than is reasonable. Hopefully they overcame that problem.

Concerning Bacteria...
By miniMUNCH on 3/4/2008 1:26:07 PM , Rating: 2
Reverse osmosis membranes have extremely small pore sizes...far too small for bacteria to pass.

Remember the backpacking water purifiers that are mainly for 'filtering out' bacteria... RO membranes are way better than backpacking filter membranes.

But over the life of the osmosis membranes life, some leakeage may occur at seals and even via pin hole leaks, etc.

But the point is... RO is good at purifying water from both bacteria and chemical contaminants such salt, heavy metals, etc.

I think this is a waste.
By mindless1 on 3/6/2008 3:28:59 AM , Rating: 2
If a people cannot live on the resources available to them in a region, they should MOVE somewhere else. This applies to water, food, overall climate as well as employment. If a people choose to live where there is no water to drink, might they be good candidates for a darwin award? There's only so much that should be done when common sense is lost. Send a bus, give them a ride to somewhere else, but to instead encourage living where they have no means to be self-supportive for even the most basic needs like water? Madness.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
Related Articles
MSI Showcases Stirling Engine Heatsink
February 29, 2008, 7:38 PM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki