Researchers at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands have developed a windmill that would be able to produce fresh water from seawater directly.
Using the process of reverse osmosis, the windmill would work with the help of a high-pressure pump that pushes water through a membrane using approximately 60 bar.
The combination of windmills and desalination installations is already commercially available. These windmills produce electricity from wind power, the electricity is stored and subsequently used to drive the high-pressure pump for the reverse osmosis installation.
But, the storage of electricity in these windmills in particular is very expensive and energy is also lost during conversion.
In the TU Delft installation, the high-pressure pump is driven directly by wind power, which leads to water storage to be used to overcome calm periods.
The fact that storage of water is a great deal cheaper than that of electricity, also asserts the significance of the new windmill.
The newly developed windmill is normally used for irrigation purposes.
These windmills turn relatively slowly and are also very robust. On the basis of the windmill's capacity at varying wind speeds, it is estimated that it will produce 5 to 10 m3 of fresh water per day: enough drinking water for a small village of 500 inhabitants.
The first prototype has been built and is already working at a location near the A13 motorway near Delft. This prototype is to be dismantled and transported to Curašao the first week of March. There the concept will be tested on seawater.