Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

The seawater greenhouse for arid lands

The seawater greenhouse is a new development that produces fresh water from sea water in hot, coastal regions of the World.
It creates optimum environmental conditions for producing temperate (salad and vegetable) crops in places where this previously has been impossible. It will produce fresh water and cool air on an industrial scale, enabling agriculture and afforestation in hot, arid coastal regions.
The project, supported by a shared cost research award from the European Community, has enabled the design, construction and testing of a prototype Seawater Greenhouse on the Canary Island of Tenerife.
The results from this prototype, which has been operational for a year, validate the concept and demonstrate the potential for other arid regions. The crop production, in terms of quality and quantity, has been outstanding. Most importantly, the prototype has enabled the validation of an advanced simulation thermodynamic model which, given appropriate meteorological data, will predict with great accuracy how the system will perform in other parts of the World.
The capital and operating costs compare favourably with best practice in conventional desalination systems, where the water produced is generally too expensive for agriculture. Most significantly, the electrical energy required to produce both cool air and fresh water is substantially less than for any conventional system and may be provided entirely by renewable energy.
Electrical power is only required for the process control, pumps and fans. Where electricity is not available, this may be provided by photovoltaic panels and/or a wind generator. The process is well suited to these renewable sources. From an energy point of view, the Greenhouse is extremely efficient; 1 kW of electrical power will produce around 600 kW of cooling.
The markets for the Seawater Greenhouse exist in regions where rainfall does not meet the growing demands for water. The demand for water increases with both population growth and a rising standard of living.

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