Atmocean, a Santa Fe based company, has developed a low-tech wave-driven energy system that uses the movement of ocean water to power the desalination of that same water. On a planet that is more than 70% water, a shocking 660 million people and countless coastal communities don’t have access to clean drinking water, due in large part to the costly desalination processes that relies on gas and diesel to power the plants and process the seawater. Atmocean’s design excludes these costly and harmful processes, with a single system providing clean power to pump nearly 30.8 million gallons of fresh water per year, enough to produce water for fifty sets of 15-30 acre crops along a single mile of coastline.
Originally intended for preventing hurricanes by bringing cool water up to the warm water layer at the top, in hopes of artificially cooling the surface of the ocean to lessen the intensity of the storm, overtime Philip Kithil, CEO of Atmocean, had the idea to harness the vertical wave motion to transport pressurized seawater to the shore.
In areas that don’t have reliable power or water—such as Peru, where Atmocean plans to have a system in place in 2019—this low-tech approach can be highly beneficial for agriculture, providing potable water sources, improving hygiene, and drought resistance to remote communities globally.
Additionally, Atmocean’s design is being built with “off-the-shelf” products that will allow local fisherman and mechanics to easily repair any damages within their community. A locally-based technology will not only decrease development costs but will also encourage community involvement, create jobs, and contribute towards a sustainable environment, all while providing clean water.
Atmocean’s innovative design allows small-scale communities to practice sustainable energy methods without the corporate involvement typical of large-scale desalination processes. Although practicing technologically-forward mechanics, Atmocean’s conscientious design provides an environmentally-friendly way for humans to benefit from the ocean while integrating community, appropriate-technology, and business
Source: Ben Ikenson, “Wave-Powered Water Pumps Could Become a New Source of Clean Energy,” Popular Mechanics, October 25, 2017, http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/green-tech/news/a28767/water-pumps-driven-wave-energy-clean-energy.
Student Researcher: Audrey Davis (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)