Water pumping wind turbine installed near Murcia

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Spanish industrial technology firm MTorres says it will install a 2.5 MW water pumping wind turbine on a floating platform four miles from the Mediterranean coastline off the region of Murcia. The rotor's mechanical power will send seawater at pressure directly through a desalination unit, also installed on the platform. Project leader Eladio Valcárcel admits the attempt to build the first commercially viable floating wind turbine and first wind-desalination hybrid to be ambitious. "But we fully expect it to be in operation by the end of 2006," he says. The central governments is "extremely enthusiastic," he says, "especially as our project responds to its commitment to desalination through renewables." Environment minister Cristina Narbona describes the project as "revolutionary" to newspaper Diario de Navarra and says her ministry aimed to finance part of its EUR 12 million cost. Similar verbal commitment has come from the regional government of Murcia. Technically, one of the main challenges is the need to maintain constant water pressure against the desalination membranes as wind speeds vary. MTorres' solution is to use numerous membranes, reducing the number employed as winds drop. The other main challenge is the 40 metre platform, which MTorres is designing in conjunction with Spanish engineering and aerospace group Sener. With Mediterranean wind resources, MTorres expects the machine to pipe 2.5 cubic hectometres of "fresh" water to shore a year, enough for 30,000 people and at 30% below the cost of conventional desalination.

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