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Drought Solution Could Be Blowing In The Wind


Generating rainfall for deserts using wind power and seawater is the subject of a new research project.

The idea involves the installation at sea of specially designed wind turbines. The turning motion of the rotors would be harnessed to pump seawater along the turbines’ hollow blades. The water would then be forced out through slits as a fine spray. These drops would evaporate, with salt falling back into the sea and a cloud of water vapour drifting inland, increasing the probability of rain.

The project is being funded by the Swindon-based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and led by Professor Stephen Salter, the University of Edinburgh’s world-renowned marine energy expert. It will first assess the feasibility of the concept, with emphasis on the meteorological aspects.

The siting of wind turbines of this kind close to deserts such as the Sahara could enable areas of drought-hit land to be regenerated for agricultural and other purposes. Using seawater in this way could also, in the very long term, combat the rise in sea levels associated with global warming. As well as being based on sound engineering principles, the concept would harness natural meteorological phenomena.

Professor Salter says: “Although there are considerable meteorological uncertainties, the potential pay-off could be enormous”.

Jane Reck | alfa

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