San Diego North County Times reporter Bradley Fikes has covered an interesting conflict between a hot cleantech desalination project and coastal preservation groups who think the project’s not so hot. Represented by the Coast Law Group, the San Diego Coastkeepers (SDC) and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus asking a state court in San Diego to enjoin construction of a coastal desalination plant by Poseidon Resources and order the City of Carlsbad to revoke approval for the project.
According to the petition, the project would be “co-located” with the Encina Power Plant. The petition states that Encina already uses a technology known as “once-through cooling” by which seawater is drawn from the ocean and circulated through the power plant to cool its generators, and then discharged back into the ocean at an increased temperature. The Poseidon desal plant would utilize the Encina Power Plant’s cooling water intake infrastructure to draw in far greater amounts of source water for the project’s desalination process.
According to the petition, Poseidon’s desal plant would require 304 million gallons per day (“MGD”) to produce 50 MGD of potable water. Of this, 100 MGD would be used for the desalination process, with the remaining 204 gallons being required to provide dilution of the desalination by-product, brine, to be discharged back to the ocean. The desal plant would allegedly require 274,400 megawatt-hours of electricity per year to deslinate the water and would produce roughly 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, allegedly making the plant the most energy-intensive means of producing drinking water in the State of California.
The petition alleges that once-through cooling is known to be harmful to the marine environment insofar as it draws ocean life into the seawater intake (entrainment), and pins the organisms against the source water intake screens (impingement). The petition claims such entrainment and impingement would kill at least 2.11 pounds, or 96,000 individual marine organisms, per day, equivalent to 23,000 pounds or 1 billion organisms over the course of the plant’s 30-year life expectancy. The groups claim these effects were not properly studied and reported during the approval process.
Thanks to reporter Brad Fikes for sending me a copy of the petition. According to his coverage, the desal project is supported by the city and other local government agencies in the drought-prone Southern California region. The project’s 50 million gallons would cover about 9 percent of countywide demand for drinking water. Poseidon has said construction will begin by Nov. 14, when a critical permit from the California Coastal Commission will expire if not acted on.
See Poseidon’s website on the Carlsbad desalination plant here.