Researchers at The University of Western Australia (UWA) will investigate the use of geothermal energy to desalinate ground water in Western Australia (WA).
Winthrop Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb,
director of the Western Australian Geothermal Centre of Excellence at UWA, says
that it was the first phase of a feasibility program to investigate and
encourage use of geothermal and waste-heat resources for heat-driven
pre-treatment and desalination of brackish and saline water.
The National Centre of Excellence in
Desalination Australia (NCEDA) provided $125,000 funding for the ground water
desalination project; the country’s federal government funds the NCEDA's
research activities through its Water for the Future initiative.
Professor Regenauer-Lieb says the
project would provide WA government and industry with an economic, technical
and market analysis of geothermal energy, coupled with water production, and would
identify areas in the state where the technology may be best applied.
"We will identify the main factors
that enable local water supplies to be produced with local renewable energy to
help overcome the expense of bringing both water and energy to sites that lack
these resources," he says.
"It will also help reduce
competition for scarce fresh water resources in those parts of Australia where
geothermal energy can be economically used to improve water quality."
The project was driven by a desire to
boost water supplies for the Integrated Water Supply Scheme, which services
Perth and Mandurah by treating brackish water that currently is available but
unused, Professor Regenauer-Lieb says.
"This use of geothermal power to
desalinate water through multi-effect distillation, preheating and reverse
osmosis can also work in regional and remote areas where the cost of water and
energy is far higher," he notes.
Based on the need for reasonably priced
potable water and electricity from companies based in remote mining areas, the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the WA Geothermal
Centre of Excellence and representatives of the State Government combined to
examine the potential of geothermal resources and symbiotic heat-driven
technologies to meet these needs, Professor Regenauer-Lieb says.
The project group includes the Water
Corp., the Department of Water and the Pilbara Cities Office of the Department
of Regional Development and Lands.
As well as servicing industry needs,
there also is huge potential to assist tourist precincts, smaller towns and indigenous
communities, and larger residential/commercial operations, according to
"For example, Rottnest Island desalinates
seawater using wind power, but geothermal power can provide base-load
electricity supplies to tourist precincts because of its 24/7
availability," he says.