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Solar Pond (El Paso, Texas, USA)

The University of Texas at El Paso started the El Paso Solar Pond project in 1983. Since May 1986 the El Paso Solar Pond has produced hot water, electricity, and fresh water. Thermal energy drawn from the bottom layer is used to preheat boiler water for a local canning operation. In October 1986 the El Paso Project became the United States’ first solar pond to generate electricity, producing up to 70 kW. Even at night or after long periods of cloudy weather, the solar pond has been able to deliver power on demand.

Solar ponds have several important advantages. They can be built easily and at a relatively low cost over large areas, using and storing solar energy on a grand scale. They can’t pollute the air, and coupled with desalting units, they can be used to purify water.

Solar ponds are of great interest in desert countries like Israel, where research into this technology has been going on for decades. The ponds provide power for otherwise unproductive land, and they can provide fresh water as a by-product with the addition of a low-temperature desalting unit.