Greenhouses for Desalination

03rd November 2006

Curious Rami is this weeks fastest growing WordPress Blog. The Blog has some very good advice for development & design teams (as in KISS) and some pretty good jokes.

Something to think about.

Maine was once the center of the US salt industry.

History of Salt Making in Maine

During the American Revolution, including the War of 1812, American shipping was interrupted and was not dependable. As a result, salt which had been shipped from such ports as Cadiz, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal, had become scarce. All along the coast of Maine salt works sprang up. From Wells to Eastport, salt works were busy evaporating the Gulf of Maine for its prized salt to supply the needs of the United States.

The salt works have long closed and are scarcely mentioned in the history books. But there was a time when much of the country seasoned, cooked and preserved with sea salt form Maine.

Today, a salt making operation has opened again in Maine–that makes specialty table salts. Interestingly, the table salt from Maine is made in greenhouses.

Maine Sea Salt is made by evaporating and reducing sea water in solar Green Houses. The Maine Sea Salt Company, based in Bailey Island, produces this sea salt from ocean water of the Gulf of Maine. Maine Sea Salt is made by evaporating and reducing sea water in solar Green Houses. The reduced sea water is moved to another Green house in shallow pools, for further reduction and finished for harvesting.

The Sea Salt is continuously harvested in Green Houses and new sea water added thru the summer and fall months.
Solar Green Houses For Finishing Salt In Shallow Pools

Once they’ve collected the salt, they smoke it with various woods to flavor it. I called them up this week and bought some hickory and apple wood smoke flavored salt.

The reason I find this interesting is that a more high tech version of the same green houses has been developed in recent years by a British Company called Seawater Greenhouse to desalinise water for greenhouse agriculture in desert coastal areas of the world. The green houses answer the following question I’ve heard from time to time: “Even if you could bring fresh water to desert areas — often the the desert soil is ruined by salt intrusion–so what’s the point?”

The Seawater Greenhouse is a unique concept which combines natural processes, simple construction techniques and mathematical computer modelling to provide a low-cost solution to one of the world’s greatest needs – fresh water. The Seawater Greenhouse is a new development that offers sustainable solution to the problem of providing water for agriculture in arid, coastal regions.

There are other areas besides the coasts that could use something like this. There are huge parts of West Texas New Mexico and elsewhere that are undergirded by vast brine aquifers. These aquifers could be pumped and the water sent to these green houses to produce several crops annually of high value fresh fruits & vegetables.

The process uses seawater to cool and humidify the air that ventilates the greenhouse and sunlight to distil fresh water from seawater. This enables the year round cultivation of high value crops that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to grow in hot, arid regions.

So how does this work?

The Seawater Greenhouse uses the sun, the sea and the atmosphere to produce fresh water and cool air. The process recreates the natural hydrological cycle within a controlled environment. The entire front wall of the building is a seawater evaporator. It consists of a honeycomb lattice and faces the prevailing wind. Fans assist and control air movement. Seawater trickles down over the lattice, cooling and humidifying the air passing through into the planting area.

Sunlight is filtered through a specially constructed roof, The roof traps infrared heat, while allowing visible light through to promote photosynthesis. This creates optimum growing conditions – cool and humid with high light intensity.

Sounds good to me. Seawater Greenhouse has been around for about 15 years. They’ve designed and built greenhouses in Tenerife, Abu Dhabi & Oman They seem to have the modeling algorithms to design greenhouses for any and every microclimate and local building material.




Consider a joint project of the DOE San Dia Labs and LiveFuels Inc. They aim to convert algae-to-oil. They could do it in greenhouses in West Texas with fresh water — and mesquite flavored salt as additional byproducts.

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  1. […] powered pumps to pull brackish water from places like west Texas. The water would go to specialized green houses that desalinate the water. These could be used to grow fruits and vegetables. If there happened to be brackish water beneath […]

    Pingback by Intermediate Term Solutions | Water Power R&D — May 27, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

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