US desalination plant facing closure

The state of California is working to close down the Cambria Community Services District $13 million desalination plant because district staffers have failed to comply with environmental requirements. In addition, the district is facing almost $800,000 in fines.

On Feb. 9, the water board slapped Cambria with three notices of violation. At that time, the district was facing almost $600,000 in fines because district staff has chronically filed late reports and failed to comply with water quality regulations, according to the Feb. 9 complaint.
In one of the notices of violation, the water board ordered the district to provide technical information and reports or face additional fines and state enforcement.

Nevertheless, the district failed to follow the water board’s requirement. As a result, water board staff is preparing a cease and desist order and a civil liability complaint, according to an April 13 letter.

In its letter, the water board included a list of 162 newly discovered violations regarding the district’s failure to comply with state clean water requirements.


Reply to CCSD Responses_final by CalCoastNews on Scribd

Graphene Based Sieve Desalinates Water

A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.

The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.

The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes.

It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale.

Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, shows how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide.

Isolated and characterised by a University of Manchester-led team in 2004, graphene comprises a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Its unusual properties, such as extraordinary tensile strength and electrical conductivity, have earmarked it as one of the most promising materials for future applications.

But it has been difficult to produce large quantities of single-layer graphene using existing methods, such as chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Current production routes are also quite costly.

On the other hand, said Dr Nair, “graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab”.

He told BBC News: “As an ink or solution, we can compose it on a substrate or porous material. Then we can use it as a membrane.

“In terms of scalability and the cost of the material, graphene oxide has a potential advantage over single-layered graphene.”

Clean water

Of the single-layer graphene he added: “To make it permeable, you need to drill small holes in the membrane. But if the hole size is larger than one nanometre, the salts go through that hole. You have to make a membrane with a very uniform less-than-one-nanometre hole size to make it useful for desalination. It is a really challenging job.”

Graphene oxide membranes have already proven their worth in sieving out small nanoparticles, organic molecules and even large salts. But until now, they couldn’t be used to filter out common salts, which require even smaller sieves.

Previous work had shown that graphene oxide membranes became slightly swollen when immersed in water, allowing smaller salts to flow through the pores along with water molecules.

Now, Dr Nair and colleagues demonstrated that placing walls made of epoxy resin (a substance used in coatings and glues) on either side of the graphene oxide membrane was sufficient to stop the expansion.

Restricting the swelling in this way also allowed the scientists to tune the properties of the membrane, letting through less or more common salt for example.

When common salts are dissolved in water, they always form a “shell” of water molecules around the salt molecules.

This allows the tiny capillaries of the graphene-oxide membranes to block the salt from flowing through along with the water.

“Water molecules can go through individually, but sodium chloride cannot. It always needs the help of the water molecules. The size of the shell of water around the salt is larger than the channel size, so it cannot go through,” said Dr Nair.

Desalination: reverse osmosis filter

By contrast, water molecules flow exceptionally fast through the membrane barrier, which makes it ideal for use in desalination.

“When the capillary size is around one nanometre, which is very close to the size of the water molecule, those molecules form a nice interconnected arrangement like a train,” Dr Nair explained.

“That makes the movement of water faster: if you push harder on one side, the molecules all move on the other side because of the hydrogen bonds between them. You can only get that situation if the channel size is very small.”

By 2025 the UN expects that 14% of the world’s population will encounter water scarcity. As the effects of climate change continue to reduce urban water supplies, wealthy modern countries are also investing in desalination technologies.

Current desalination plants around the world use polymer-based membranes.

“This is our first demonstration that we can control the spacing [of pores in the membrane] and that we can do desalination, which was not possible before. The next step is to compare this with the state-of-the-art material available on the market,” said Dr Nair.

In a news and views article accompanying the study in Nature Nanotechnology, Ram Devanathan, from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, US, said more work needed to be done to produce graphene oxide membranes inexpensively at industrial scales.


3D Printing Offers Possible New Efficiencies to Water Desalination

Additive manufacturing of membranes for water desalination would offer a number of advantages in the design of membrane structures customised to reduce fouling by selectively channeling the feed towards particular parts of the membrane.

Globally, the pressure on the world’s water sources is already high. Increases in population will only add to this urgency. Technological innovations are helping, but they, too, are struggling to keep up. Water desalination is one answer, but the process, to date, has proven to be prohibitively expensive and energy-intensive, so it’s reserved for only the direst shortages.

Water purification, including desalination, is frequently accomplished using reverse osmosis, or forcing water through cartridges that contain thin-film composite polyamide membranes. These membranes trap salt and other impurities, allowing fresh water to flow through. The more membrane that can be put into the cartridges that create pressure to force the water through, the more efficient the process will be. Advances in the design and creation of membranes could help bring down the complexity and costs involved in desalination.

Some researchers are looking to additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, for its potential to create membranes of almost any geometrically complex shape or feature. Researchers at the University of Bath (England) Centre for Advanced Separations Engineering (CASE) have focused on the potential for using additive manufacturing to improve on separation membrane engineering with the hopes of creating more precise designs than current fabrication methods allow.

Currently, membranes are primarily produced by a process called “interfacial polymerization,” which coats a thin dense layer of a polymer onto the surface of a support membrane (which is typically formed by phase inversion). Limitations to control over the architecture of the membranes mean that researchers cannot rigorously control the design of the membrane, but because the method has been studied extensively and is well understood, it remains the process of choice for creating membranes.

Research into 3D printing membranes for reverse osmosis is just beginning. Previous studies conducted have demonstrated the strength of additive manufacturing techniques in making complex 3D geometries with internal features for membrane applications. The key is complete freedom in the design process.

Dr. Darrell Patterson, director of the Centre for Advanced Separations Engineering (CASE) at the University of Bath, told Design News that 3D-printed membranes could have a number of advantages over traditionally fabricated membranes.

“New 3D-printed designs could reduce membrane fouling by printing on patterns or nature inspired designs to reduce fouling/concentration polarization and increase permeance through the membrane,” he said. “This is only realizable once the resolution and accuracy of the 3D printers can be bettered compared to what is currently possible.”

The team at CASE set out to review from the literature the advantages and disadvantages for membrane creation using all the current methods of additive manufacturing, including photopolymerization, powder, material extrusion, and lamination based on resolution, accuracy, build size, speed, printed materials, mechanical properties, support, and cost.

The researchers noted that 3D-printing technology hasn’t yet reached the point where it’s capable of producing large-scale membranes that will be cost-competitive with existing products, but their work highlights the technology’s potential.

Going forward, additive manufacturing could be used to create membrane structures designed to reduce fouling by selectively channeling the feed towards particular parts of the membrane and membrane material that separate a sub-set of molecules. Other parts could be printed from different materials with different properties that separate a different subset of molecules all in the same sheet. It may also be easier to accommodate surface texturing of the membrane, which current manufacturing methods engage in to produce membranes less apt to clogging.

Additive manufacturing could also address the problems associated with the high pressures used in reverse osmosis, particularly when desalination of the water is necessary: up to 50-80 bar depending on the salt concentration to be removed.

“Current membranes accommodate these [pressures] well,” Patterson told Design News. “I could imagine that 3D printing in the future being printed of material that is more mechanically robust and therefore is less deformed or affected by pressure compared to current materials.”

As with other additive manufacturing applications, rapid prototyping could also be an advantage in terms of speed, efficiency and customization when compared to traditional prototyping. The CASE team’s work found that 3D printing has the capability to produce not only the membrane, but also the spacers and the entire membrane module, which may reduce the overall production time.

In addition, an AM process for membrane creation could make it possible to control the composition of two or more materials across the surface and interface during fabrication, allowing positional variations in physical properties and characteristics such as multiple alternating layers of materials or selective distribution of one material on another to improve the performance of the membrane.

The researchers’ paper, “ Perspective on 3D Printing of Separation Membranes and Comparison to Related Unconventional Fabrication Techniques ,” was published in the February 2017 issue of theJournal of Membrane Science .

Can pervaporation filter seawater in minutes?

Researchers at Alexandria University in Egypt have found a cost-effective desalination technology which can filter salt water in minutes without using electricity.

The technology is based on membranes containing cellulose acetate powder, produced in Egypt. The powder, in combination with other components, binds the salt particles as they pass through the membrane.

“The membrane we fabricated can easily be made in any laboratory using cheap ingredients, which makes it an excellent option for developing countries,” says Ahmed El-Shafei, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Alexandria University.

The technology uses pervaporation, a technique by which the water is first filtered through the membrane to remove larger particles and then heated until it vaporises. The vapour is then condensed to get rid of small impurities, and clean water is collected.

This method can be used to desalinate water which contains different types of contamination, such as salt, sewage and dirt. This kind of water is difficult to clean quickly using existing procedures.

The membrane technology in combination with vaporisation can be applied in remote settings, as it requires only the membranes for the filtering process, and fire to vaporise the filtered water.

“Using pervaporation eliminates the need for electricity that is used in classic desalination processes, thus cutting costs significantly,” says El-Shafei.

“The technology has been around since the mid-90s, but what is new is making the membrane locally, using materials abundant in Egypt and developing countries,”  says Helmy El-Zanfaly, a professor of water contamination at Egypt’s National Research Center.

He adds that existing pervaporation membranes are fabricated using complicated procedures, making them unsuitable for cheap production.

“The technology implemented in the study is much better than reverse osmosis, the technology currently used in Egypt and most countries in the Middle East and North Africa,” says El-Zanfaly.

Cape Town Running Dry With 100 Days Of Water Left

Cape Town, the crown jewel of South Africa’s tourism industry, has 100 days before it runs out of water.

After two years of the least rainfall on record, the average level of the six main dams that supply the city of 3.7 million people has dropped below 30 percent, one of the lowest levels on record. The last 10 percent of the reservoir water is unusable, and the risk is mounting that taps and pipes will stop flowing before the onset of the winter rainy season that normally starts in May or June.

Even if the supply stretches until then, heavy downpours may be needed to avert outages over the next two years in South Africa’s second-biggest city. Each year more than 850,000 people from the region and abroad fly through the international airport in Cape Town, which the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper has rated as the top city destination for the past four years.

“We are in a real crisis,” Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the Women4Climate conference in New York on March 8. “People will have to change the way they are doing things. You can only save water while you have water.”

The city council has imposed water restrictions, including bans on using hosepipes to irrigate gardens and fill swimming pools, and fined those who violate them. It’s also lowered the water pressure and stepped up efforts to combat leaks. While those measures have helped reduce average daily summer consumption to 751 million litres (165 million gallons) a day, from 1.1 billion litres a year ago, that’s still shy of the city’s 700-million-litre target.

Diversify Supply

The Cape Town authorities should have done more to diversify its water supply and implemented projects to use treated sewage and effluent, said Kevin Winter, a lecturer and water expert at the University of Cape Town’s Environmental and Geographical Science Department.

“Ninety-eight percent of water comes from dams and that is crazy,” he said. “We use untreated, high quality water for everything we can think of.”

The lack of water and efforts to conserve it are evident from the city’s withered gardens and parks and closure of most municipal swimming pools. Many of the city’s more than 3.7 million people have taken to using water from their baths and showers to flush toilets and try and keep their plants alive. Providers of wells and equipment that captures runoff from washing machines and bathrooms, known as gray water, are doing a roaring trade.

Nazeer Sonday, who grows vegetables in the southern suburb of Philippi, is one of hundreds of farmers in the city and surrounding areas whose livelihoods are under threat from the water shortages.

Struggling farmers

“We have access to an underground aquifer,” Sonday said. “The long drought means that the aquifer is no longer been replenished as quickly as it should. The salt content rises and the seedlings are very sensitive to this. The water has to be filtered and this adds to the cost of production.”

The city and national governments are implementing and considering several projects to augment the water supply, according to De Lille. These include:

Jordan’s First Desalination Plant Launches

Prime minister Hani al-Mulki, opened in the port sea of Aqaba, the first sea water desalination plant, that will produce 500 cubic meters of water per hour.

Al Mulki also attended the signing of an agreement to expand the Aqaba Water Treatment Plant, in addition to other agreements to implement the Wadi Rahma and al-Fidan dams.

He also laid the foundation stone of an investment project for the ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.

The water desalination project at site of the Arab Fertilizers and Chemicals Industry (KEMPACO), which is fully owned company by the Arab Potash Company, is a model of partnership between the public and private sectors.

The plant, which was constructed over a period of 7 year, was built on the basis of build, operate, transfer.

Arab Potash Company Chairman, Jamal Sarayrah, said the station, with an annual capacity of 5 million cubic metres, is designed to desalinate Red Rea water with the support of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority

Does California’s Wet Winter Put Desalination On The Back-Burner?

Here’s a cold, wet reality: the more water in California’s reservoirs, the less urgency there is to build new ocean-water desalination plants that became a major talking point during the state’s long, parched years of drought, an ultra-dry period some folks insist has still not ended despite months of heavy rains.

Those record or near-record rains have replenished everything reservoirs lost over the last few years of drought, and sometimes more.

Desalination is always tantalizing here because — like Samuel Coleridge’s ancient mariner, who complained of “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” — Californians can see billions of acre-feet of water every day in the form of the Pacific Ocean, complete with all its bays and estuaries.

But that’s briny salt water, containing an array of minerals that make it almost as inaccessible today as it was to the parched, fictitious sailor of 187 years ago.

It won’t necessarily stay that way. Whenever the price of other water goes up, desalinating Pacific waters becomes more enticing. It will become more so if the price of filtering minerals out of salt water drops.

But if the price and availability of fresh water remains reasonable, as it surely will be this year, desal stays in the back seat.

Yes, Boston-based Poseidon Water since late 2015 has operated the largest desalination plant in America on the coast at Carlsbad, just north of San Diego. The facility supplies almost 10 percent of the San Diego area’s water needs. That’s a region which has long wanted to be as independent as possible from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (often called the Met), through which it gets supplies from the State Water Project and the Colorado River Aqueduct. Expensive as Carlsbad water may be at about $2,200 per acre foot, it improves the San Diego County Water Authority’s negotiating position with the Met.

During the drought, that water agency signed a contract with the plant operator to purchase at least 48,000 acre-feet per year of water, but it can also demand up to 56,000 acre-feet in any year it feels the need. An acre-foot of water contains about 330,000 gallons, about the amount a typical family uses in a year. That water costs more than $100 per acre-foot above the price of recycled water and about $1,000 more than reservoir water or supplies from the Met, approximately doubling water cost. The San Diego authority claims that its take from the Met has been overpriced for years, and now pays more than $300 per acre foot for Colorado River water bought from the Imperial Valley’s irrigation district, which reaches San Diego County via the Met’s aqueduct.

At the depth of the drought, the Met paid some farmers in the Sacramento Valley an average of $694 per acre foot for parts of their supply. So even at drought-inflated prices, fresh surface water remained much cheaper than desalinated supplies.

These numbers all establish that desalinated water is now by far the most expensive alternative California water districts can pursue. This is one reason a proposed desal plant at Huntington Beach in Orange County has run into resistance. Environmental problems are another: The Carlsbad plant was cited several times for environmental violations during its first few months of operation.

But the price tag is the biggest problem. The Carlsbad plant cost $1 billion to build, with about $50 million in yearly operating costs. When treating wastewater or catching more storm runoff can keep supplies at acceptable levels, there’s no need to pay so much for desalination.

But if new methods to purify sea water beyond the standard technique of reverse osmosis ever become workable, all bets will be off.

Despite claims by some companies that they can desalinate water for less than $700 per acre foot, none has yet demonstrated it can do the job on the extremely large scale needed to assure California water supplies.

Which means the more it rains, the more the prospects for new desalinated water supplies fall. But they will surely resurface the moment a new drought arrives.

By Thomas D. Elias, a writer in Southern California. Contact him at

Major Australian Desalination Plant Loses Over $750,000 To Theft

A major desalination plant recently lost a fortune to theft.

An employee at the operation allegedly siphoned money from “Sydney’s mothballed desalination plant into her personal bank account to feed her gambling addiction,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

The total was over 1 million Australian dollars (over $756,000 USD).

The plant, which is currently offline because dam storage levels are above 70 percent in Sydney, has been criticized as a waste of money, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Completed in 2010, it went offline in 2012, according to the facility’s website.

The employee who allegedly stole from the plant, Stella Wyllie, worked for Veolia Water Operations. Veolia operates the Kurnell water plant, according to reports. Wyllie was responsible for paying contractors.

“Wyllie pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining financial advantage after being charged [in February]. The woman, who spent more than two years in jail in Tasmania for a previous incident involving 74 counts of stealing, had worked at Veolia as a site administrator since 2009,” The Daily Telegraph reported.

The news outlet described how she allegedly carried out the crime:

The police statement of facts tendered to the court reveal that for a period of eight months from February 15 last year she made 70 fraudulent electronic transfers totaling AU$1,095,546.90 into her own account, before the firm became suspicious in October.

“Three contractors alleged Veolia had not paid their invoices. However, the accounting system was indicating the invoices were paid,” the police facts state.

Wyllie says she struggles with gambling, The St. George & Sutherland Shire Leader reported:

She was arrested and charged earlier this month after presenting herself to Miranda police station. Police said in the statement of facts that during an interview she made a full admission and blamed a gambling issue. She is due to be sentenced in April.

While it unclear when the plant could come back online, The Daily Telegraph reported in September that the desalination plant is offline “for at least another year” while its roof is repaired.

All Eyes On Singapore For Water Innovation

Water is the life blood essential to our survival. Yet prices for that basic need are increasing as a crisis point for supplies looms. Singapore’s 2017 budget announcements outlined plans to raise the price of water by 30%, the first increase in 17 years.

Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat, described how the plan will feature two separate rises. There will be one on the 1st of July 2017 and the second a year later.

The move was justified by increasing costs and high water usage across the country. MP, Dr. Lee Bee Wah, said “the increase in water prices is just to bring up the awareness of the importance of water”.

Most families will be affected by the price spike

Source: table

For most families, living in HDB accommodation the price rise will mean an extra S$9 to S$15 (US$6 to US$10) a month for turning on the tap. With the U-save scheme, those living in one or two room public flats will actually see their water tariff decrease of around 1S$ (US$0.75). The U-save schemes and adjustments mean that in reality, 75% of households will see an increase of less than 18S$ a month on their existing water bills.

Most businesses will see an increase of less than S$25 (US$18) a month. In an attempt to discourage water waste, houses who consume more than 40 cubic meters a month will be charged a premium. The price per cubic meter over the allotted 40 per month will be S$3.21 (US$2.26) compared to the normal rate of S$2.39 (US$1.68) per cubic meter.

The public have been left confused

To the general public of Singapore, the news comes as a surprise. The country is already paying a lot for water, ten times more than neighbouring Hong Kong.


Residents took to twitter to express their confusion. M.K. a Singapore resident questioned the logic. Saying “Water is important. That´s why we raised its price by 30%. Now you know how important it is.”

The Singapore Democratic Party also denounced the price increases. Secretary General, Chee Soon Juan questioned “How is this justifiable?” and called it “shocking” that the government would increase prices “at a time when Singaporeans are facing great uncertainty.”

The road to self-reliance.

Singapore faces geographical challenges to securing a sustainable source of water. The country has no natural sources and very limited land space from which to collect and recycle rainwater.

After the droughts of the 1960s, Singapore turned to imported water from Malaysia. The 1961 and 1962 bilateral agreements saw Malaysia providing 250 million gallons of water a day to Singapore. The agreements were negotiated to stand for 99 years. They expire in 2061. Malaysia has not been shy to leverage to their advantage.

The leverage was also financial. In August of 2000 Malaysia wanted to renegotiate the price Singapore was paying for water. Goh Chock Tong´s government in Singapore had no intention of allowing Malaysia to raise the price of water whenever it felt like it. They were prepared to discuss the demands as part of a bilateral package but no agreement was made.

Singapore has had to use water policy to overcome its water vulnerability.

To achieve self-sufficiency and end reliance on Malaysian water imports, Singapore’s water policy and research since the 1970s has focused on technology. The NEWater scheme purifies rain and waste water for reuse. The scheme now has a catchment area covering two-thirds of the island. In 2005 the country opened their first desalination plant. The plant turns 30 million gallons of sea-water a day into potable water for domestic use.

Having a self-sufficient water supply was more than just an economic issue, it was sensible foreign policy. Malaysia has had a bargaining chip which has allowed them to tip the scales in their favour during negotiations. It removes the threat of water security from the table.

Unpredictable weather calls for innovative solutions.

Dry weather in 2016 has left reservoir levels much lower than usual. Levels in the Johor Linggiu Reservoir have reached record lows. The reservoir is down to just 32% capacity. Singapore will now want to get as much as possible out of each drop of water.

Countries like Israel who have been able to recapture 86% of their waste water demonstrate the benefits of a successful water recycling system. The country is 60% desert, yet has a surplus of water annually because their recapture rate is the highest on the planet. The water is reused in agriculture with minimal treatment.

Singapore has adopted this scheme itself using NEWater, but is currently unable to achieve the level of efficiency seen in Israel. Singapore’s Limited ground space for water catchment has made the process difficult. The country currently has a catchment area covering two-thirds of the country’s land surface. There are goals to increase this to 90% in the long-term.

The price increase is necessary to ensure future sustainability.

Predicted population increases anticipate the current demand of 400mgd a day to double to 800mgd by 2061.The government’s objectives are to have desalination plants and NEWater providing 85% of Singapore’s water needs by 2061. The process is expensive. The cost of desalination is three times the cost of imported water due to the energy required to create the pressures necessary for sea-salt extraction.

The Director of Engineering Development and Procurement at PUB, Mr Young Choo Chye is committed to the process of desalination. He said “Desalinated water is a key pillar of Singapore’s water supply strategy.” Desalination allows Singapore to tap into a new, non-traditional water supply which is resistant to drought and increasing global temperatures. The PUB undoubtedly see desalination as the solution to Singapore´s water crisis.

There are plans to build more desalination plants.

The two plants already in operation, both in Tuas, are able to produce 100 million gallons a day from the sea. A third is expected to be finished this year, with a price-tag of S$217 million (US$153 million) to the public purse. Two more plants are expected to be operational by 2020.

The relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is shifting thanks to intelligent water policy. Singapore actually exported potable water to Malaysia on three occasions in 2015 and 2016. Extreme weather had caused a shortage in potable water for domestic use. In the same way water was a valuable tool in Malaysia´s foreign policy with Singapore, drier conditions and water scarcity from natural sources will only increase reliance on alternative methods of sourcing water. Singapore’s water innovation and technological development are beginning to bring international leverage in the arena of global foreign policy.

The government plan to invest S$4 billion (US$2.82 billion) in water infrastructure over the next five years. It will be funded from the imminent price rises. As weather conditions become more unpredictable and the effects of climate change are felt, we can expect other countries to look for alternative methods to source their water supply. In the future, Singapore will be able to export their technology and expertise, making them a global leader in water solutions.

The price hikes may hurt the public wallets, but Singapore is one of the leading countries for the development of desalination techniques and they are already exporting this technology across the world.

An ever-increasing population and hotter temperatures are pushing our planet towards its breaking point. Singapore’s steps towards water self-sufficiency and cutting-edge water sourcing techniques represent a nation’s ability to turn a problem into a promising opportunity. What Singapore lacks in natural resources, it more than makes up for in innovation. When water shortages and drought begin to affect the global north, the world will look to Singapore as a beacon for what can be achieved with limited water sources.

World-First Solar Tower Powered Tomato Farm Opens

Construction of a world-leading, concentrated solar power (CSP) tower plant that will supply electricity, heat and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes in the Australian desert has been completed in South Australia.

At the end of what has been a tough week for renewables in the state, Sundrop Farms marked the completion of construction and the beginning of full operations at their world-first 20-hectare solar desalination farm in Port Augusta on Friday, with an official opening celebration.

The opening of the $200 million state-of-the-art solar thermal development is a fillip for Port Augusta, which last week took the brunt of 83km/h winds that accompanied the one-in-50-year storm that wreaked havoc in South Australia.2016-10-06_Sundrop Farms project opening_Aalborg CSP heliostats

And the recent closure of the Port Augusta’s coal-fired power station – the state’s last in operation, that had been running since the 1960s – puts the region at the forefront of a major industrial and economic transformation.

The Sundrop tomato farm – which has generated jobs for around 175 people – is the first commercial scale facility of its calibre in the world, using sunlight and seawater to grow 15 million kg of truss tomatoes a year that will be sold exclusively through Coles supermarkets via a 10-year off take agreement.

The greenhouses will also produce more than 450,000m3 of freshwater per year – equivalent to 180 Olympic size swimming pools – and displace the use of more than 2 million litres of diesel per year.

The technology was developed by Danish renewables outfit Aalborg, who began construction of the custom built concentrated solar power tower system – including a a 51,500m² solar field consisting of more than 23,000 heliostats – for Sundrop in October 2015. The 127 metre solar tower went up in March.

2016-10-06_Sundrop Farms project opening_Tomatoes 3Sundrop Farms managing director for Australia, Steve Marafiote, says the development provides a blue-print for the future of fresh food production.

“Through the establishment of our high-tech greenhouse facilities, we are driving solutions for the production of healthy food in a manner that eradicates the impacts of variability to ensure sufficient supply of produce in line with consumer expectations, and ultimately promote long-term viability of farming in regions facing water and energy supply constraints.”

SA Premier Jay Weatherill, who has spent much of the past week defending his government’s nation-leading approach to renewable energy development, said the project highlighted the state’s appetite for the commercialisation of world leading, innovative technology – and the jobs that accompany it.

“This state-of-the-art development is a massive boost for Port Augusta and the Upper Spencer Gulf, creating almost 200 jobs and heralding the start of an exciting new industry for the region,” he said on Friday.

“It also aligns with several of South Australia’s key economic priorities, including creating premium food and wine from our clean environment and growth through innovation.

“It is yet another example of a world-leading company making a long-term investment in this state and I look forward to seeing the wide-scale benefits the project will bring over coming years. The state government supported the project through a $6 million grant from the Major Projects Program of the Regional Development Fund.”

The project was also supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and $100 million of funding from leading global private equity investor KKR.

Sundrop Farms founder and CEO, Philipp Saumweber, said the Port Augusta development demonstrates the company’s unique agribusiness model that benefits people, planet and long-term, sustainable profits.

“Today is exciting because we’re really opening what is a world’s first facility and one that has … pioneered decoupling food production from finite resources,” Saumweber said.

“But the work for Sundrop isn’t finished, it’s just starting,” he added. “Here in Australia, we have a long-term commitment to R&D and innovation and are looking to build future projects in this state and around the country.

“It’s a business that provides green jobs, high-tech growing jobs, that provides training for local and regional communities and that provides research and development opportunities right here in Port Augusta.

“A crucial element to our success is our people and their multi-disciplinary capabilities, across agriculture, engineering, food production, renewable energy, and finance which have contributed to what is a paradigm shift in food production. We’ve worked in consort to achieve lasting and sustainable advances in horticulture utilising abundant and renewable resources,” Saumweber said.