Economic and Environmental Analysis of Wave-Powered Desalination in Southern California

by Brian David Stiber

Institution: San Diego State University
Year: 2015
Record ID: 2058083
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10211.3/134864


Climate change, drought, population growth and increased energy and water costs are all forces driving exploration into alternative, sustainable resources. The abundance of untapped wave energy off the coast of Southern California presents an opportunity for research into exploiting this resource to meet the energy and water needs of the area. This paper investigates the potential and impact of harnessing wave energy off the Southern California coast for the purpose of seawater desalination. First the SWAN wave modeling software was used to evaluate the size and character of the wave resource. This data was used to estimate the cost of water for wave-powered desalination in the region. Next the COAWST coupled ocean-wave-sediment model was used to study the effect of wave-powered desalination on coastal sediment processes. The results of these simulations and analysis indicate that, although the cost of water from this technology is not economically competitive at this time, the large available resource confirms the viability of significantly supplementing current freshwater supplies. In addition the minimal environmental impact found and sustainable nature of the resource confirm that further research into the feasibility of wave power as a source of energy and water in the area is warranted, particularly as water and energy become more scarce and expensive and as commercial wave energy conversion matures.