News Column

EDITORIAL: Wind energy and desalinated water in West Texas? Why not?

May 7, 2014

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas



May 07--Energy and water are two crucial commodities that, by necessity, have been looked at in a different light in Texas.

Renewable wind energy has been an important part of Texas Tech and the surrounding region for many years and is getting bigger.

It would be an exciting development to find our area on the cutting edge of desalination of water as well.

At first glance, taking the impurities from seawater or salty groundwater and making such water drinkable doesn't seem like a promising possiblity for our part of Texas. But neither did the generation of significant amounts of energy from wind turbines at one time, and wind energy has become a reality.

Xcel Energy, which sells energy to Lubbock Power & Light, leads national utilities in providing wind energy and currently sells it to customers in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.

More wind energy generation is coming to the area. Tri-Global Energy currently is planning the largest wind farm in the world in Hale County.

Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance says the university will soon break ground on land near Reese Air Force Base for a commercial wind farm.

That's going to fit well with Tech's long-standing academic research of wind energy. In 2003, Tech developed, with support from the National Science Foundation, the first interdisciplinary Ph.D. program dedicated to wind science and engineering.

Texas Tech officials last week signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pantex Renewable Energy Project wind farm near Amarillo. Tech will be able to research and study data from the wind farm.

The process of desalination would seem to have little in common with creating energy from the wind, but both are able to create something usable from something not usable.

Removing impurities from water and making it useful for human consumption is enormously appealing, especially in a state suffering from a drought.

"It's a drought-proof supply of water -- we have an endless supply from the Gulf of Mexico," said Sanjeev Kalaswad, a research scientist for the Texas Water Development Board's Innovative Water Technologies, in an interview with A-J Media.

That is certainly an inviting possibility for Texas, which has a long coastline. There's no way to move water from the Gulf of Mexico to Lubbock without building an expensive pipeline, but there is brackish groundwater here that could be desalinated.

The High Plains Water District is exploring desalination options, general manager Jason Coleman told A-J Media.

Coleman notes the time frame for desalination is likely to be related to how long the drought lasts. Continued dry weather will make the option of purifying unusable water more and more appealing.

Desalination is not going to be the only answer to future water needs in West Texas, but it could be part of the answer. It should be studied to prepare for a time when it may become necessary to go in that direction.

At-a-glance

-- Our position: Making energy from the wind and creating drinking water from water that is currently unusable are both appealing projects. Creating renewable wind energy has been successful and is being increased. Desalination of water has generated far less success, but it is an option that needs to be explored for the future.

-- Why you should care: All water, no matter how polluted or how salty it is, can be made drinkable by removing the pollution, salt and other impurities. Processes for removing them are difficult and expensive, but they may become necessary on a larger scale in places where the water supply is fragile.

-- For more information: Log on to our website, www.lubbockonline.com, and enter the words "desalination" or "wind energy" in the search box.

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(c)2014 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas)

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Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX)