An Israeli technology is about to address America's growing water crisis. IDE Technologies – a pioneer and world leader in water technologies – won a contract to design and supply equipment for a new nearly $1 billion desalination plant to be located near the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad, California.
The facility, which is expected to begin operations in 2016, will produce 54 million gallons (204,412 cubic meters) of potable water each day.
"The Carlsbad Desalination Project is a significant milestone for us, California and the US at large, as we believe it will set the stage for the future of desalination in America,” says Avshalom Felber, CEO of IDE Technologies.
"Israel has [always] had to deal with water problems. In the US, most places have plenty of water. The whole concept of desalination is kind of new there," says Felber.
From drip irrigation, to water recycling, reclamation, wastewater reuse and desalination, Israel is a worldwide pioneer of water technologies.
"There's a whole list of Israeli groups including IDE that lead various aspects of the world water industry. We bring solutions that are innovative and different," says Felber of Israel's international reputation as a center of world-class expertise in the field.
400 plants in 40 countries
For over four decades, IDE Technologies has been making seawater potable for millions of people worldwide, with 400 desalination plants in 40 countries, producing 2,000,000 cubic meters of water a day.
The company started in 1965 as a government-run venture. Today it is privately owned by two mega-industrial companies: Israel Chemical and the Delek Group. IDE specializes in desalination, but also works with wastewater treatment, heat pumps and producing ice and snow machines.
The latest $922 million project will help the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) alleviate its water shortage problem and achieve its goal of having seven percent of the region’s water supply come from seawater desalination by 2020. The treated water will be delivered into the county's water system.
The Carlsbad Desalination Project will be designed by IDE subsidiary IDE Americas, and administered by Poseidon Resources, a subsidiary of Poseidon Water. In addition to the $150 million design contract, IDE Technologies will receive a further $500 million for operating and maintaining the plant under a 30-year contract.
Felber says IDE has plans for other desalination plants in US states facing water crises, such as Texas, Florida and Nevada.
“Our view is that the Carlsbad project that we’re about to embark upon will accelerate both the visibility of desalination in North America and the ability of potential clients, both public and private, to understand how creative project delivery, creative finance and innovative process design allow these types of projects to happen. The movement in the US toward desalination has been a long time coming, and we’re ready to lead the charge,” said Mark Lambert, CEO of IDE Americas.
IDE Technologies, which is based in Kadima -- a 40-minute drive north of Tel Aviv -- has built and operates some of the world’s largest desalination plants. It runs the world's largest desalination plants in Ashkelon and Hadera, and will be responsible for the new Soreq desalination plant in Israel, which will be the largest reverse osmosis plant in the world and which is scheduled to begin operating this year.
The Carlsbad Desalination Project will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the United States.
"When you are dealing with an urban population, size is definitely the name of the game," says Felber, noting that urban sprawl clearly affects water consumption. "When you see desalination for urban needs, you talk about very large plants. The bigger they are the better overall solution you can offer."
The Carlsbad plan follows IDE's latest technological developments, especially in the pretreatment phase. It will use IDE's reverse osmosis technology, which requires less energy and is friendlier to the environment than thermal-based systems.
IDE's Carlsbad project is said to be creating a new map of the American water market.
Felber says the United States had been reluctant to pursue desalination projects because of a problematic one in Florida’s Tampa Bay. “Decision-makers had in their minds that desalination was not a viable solution. In America, it's hard to persuade someone that what they think is not viable is workable," says Felber. "It took us years to persuade them that this is a viable solution. And now the way is paved for other desalination ventures."