New Mexico R&D

09th February 2007

Three items out of New Mexico,  recently,  point to the focus that state is putting on desalination.

The new El Paso/ Ft Bliss water desalination plant is opening this year. It will be the world’s largest inland water desalination plant.

The desalination facilities will increase El Paso Water Utilities’ fresh water production by approximately 25%, based on current demand, and will include a state-of-the-art desalination plant, a learning center, groundwater wells, transmission pipelines, storage and pumping facilities and the disposal of concentrate, the residual that remains after the desalination process.

The second item out of New Mexico is the opening of a new 16,000 sq ft  ground water desalination research facility. The facility called the National Inland Groundwater Research Center headed up by Mike Hightower from San Dia Labs–will offer permits & several different concentrations of brackish water for desalination research purposes.

To address the development of the “next generation” of desalination technologies needed to realistically impact future fresh water supplies, a federal partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and the Bureau of Reclamation was established by Congress in 2001 to evaluate and coordinate the development of a brackish ground water desalination research facility in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. While significant efforts have been devoted to address coastal or seawater desalination issues, this facility has been designed to address the unique research needs, such as system performance and environmental impact, of desalination and effective utilization of brackish ground water in inland areas. The goal of this facility is to become a national and international leader in the research, testing, evaluation, and demonstration of novel technologies for cost-effective ground water desalination and environmentally sound concentrate management.

Conceptual design of the facility was completed in September 2002, and final design completed in April 2004. Construction on the water supply system for the facility was initiated in October 2003, while groundbreaking for the facility was held in June 2004.

This last article involves students being involved in a research contest that involves desalination related problems. It occurs to me that they might do their bench scale demonstrations at the new facility mentioned above. One of the problems calls for the students to “Develop an inland desalination operation” Too bad they won’t have those cheap photovoltaic cells that I mentioned in last week’s post. Those won’t come out until this fall. However, a couple  ideas mentioned in this blog would  be great student projects.  One would be  distillation desalination using low pressure.  Another would would be using greenhouses for water desalination.

Anyhow here is the contest.

Environmental Design Contest to focus on water and renewable energy

Under the recently formed Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) and the College of Engineering, New Mexico State University is advancing applied engineering solutions to critical environmental challenges through its Environmental Design Contest, an annual international competition set for April 1-5 this year.

The Design Contest, sponsored by private and public entities such as Intel, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Food and Drug Administration and the American Water Works Association and Research Foundation, has deployed seven student-developed technologies at industrial and DOE sites over the 17-year course of the contest.

The design challenges presented in the upcoming competition relate to water and renewable energy – two areas critical to the state’s legislative initiatives symbolized by Gov. Bill Richardson’s call to be the “clean energy state” as he declared 2007 the “Year of Water.”

Left to right are Mark Ferguson, Christina Haley, and Long TranThe 2007 international challenge will engage 34 teams from 22 universities. Almost 170 students from across the U.S., as well as teams from Budapest, Hungary, Universidad de Las Americas in Mexico, and the University of Manitoba, Canada, will compete. In a concurrent high school design contest, 125 students from eight schools will develop solutions to the same design challenges with various options for the younger competitors. NMSU has two teams competing for cash prizes, traveling trophies and worldwide recognition.

Government agencies, industrial affiliates and academic partners play a key role in the design contest, assisting IEE in the development of design problems and evaluation criteria, providing financial support for site-specific issues and serving as judges for the final competition. Design teams showcase their work through research papers, oral and poster presentations and bench-scale demonstrations. Their scientific approach must consider regulatory guidelines, public opinion and cost.

“The institute fosters an inter-disciplinary research agenda to address environmental sustainability,” said Abbas Ghassemi, IEE director. “Our flagship event, the International Environmental Design Contest is evolving into its 17th year addressing immediate areas of concern, and it is as timely and relevant as ever. We continue to evolve the application of real solutions to real problems affecting quality of life for everyone.”

Steven Castillo, dean of the NMSU College of Engineering, is excited about the contest and the engineering solutions that result from it.

“Providing inexpensive, clean sources of energy to support continued economic growth is one of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years,” Castillo said. “IEE is becoming a focal point for NMSU faculty from disparate disciplines to solve difficult technical problems and support the production of world-class engineers in these important areas.”

This year’s Design Contest tasks include:

• Develop a photovoltaic (solar panel) system performance indicator to determine that a residential utility-interactive PV system is operating properly and that the AC power output is following the solar power available to the PV array.

• Develop an inland desalination operation and disposal system (for water) in rural, isolated communities to demonstrate a low-cost, simple and reliable system.

• Convert a biomass resource to useful forms of energy and other products to demonstrate options using biogas or liquids.



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