Our candidates are on a worldwide mission to analyze, understand and discover the richness of energy and environment activities. Like all GDF SUEZ employees, they are committed to responsible energy.
currently in France
currently in France
Pingoo and the Victorian Desalination Project
The Victorian Desalination Project in Melbourne is one of the biggest projects of its kind, and thus generates many public interests. Local authorities, media, and communities wonder what it is, and how it will impact their daily lives. Here is a short story featuring Pingoo the Penguin and his concerns regarding the plant, to illustrate the main questions around desalination plants and how companies respond to it.
Pingoo lives on Philip Island, and has heard the largest desalination plant of the southern hemisphere will be build close by. He worries about the possible impacts of that plant.
“Why do I need a desal plant?”
- When the project has been decided by the Authorities of Victoria in 2007, the state was at a critical stage: a 10 years drought had reduced reservoir levels to around 25%, and Melbourne city consumed around 7% of it per year. Finding another source of drinking water was vital, and it had to be done immediately.
“Aren’t there other solutions?”
- The first action of the government has been to put in place a long-term plan for water, outlining more than 100 actions seeking to secure water supplies and sustain growth over the next decades. One of these actions was to reduce consumption of course through common sense water saving. It dropped from approximately 10% since 2000. But it wasn’t enough, and the objective remained finding a new source of drinking water. Recycling water was another option, but would you be ready to drink recycled water Pingoo? The Authorities of Queensland, facing the same issue at the time, asked the people. But even in this dramatic situation, people couldn’t consider drinking recycled waste water. So the Authorities of Victoria at that time decided to build a desalination plant fast, their only option, able to provide one third of Melbourne’s annual water from a source that is entirely independent of rainfall.
“Why here?” wonders Pingoo who is scared this huge plant would pollute his environment.
- Wonthaggi was the best location for environmental concerns primarily:
1. Quality of the water was perfect: less filtration was needed, hence reducing power consumption.
2. The current and waves at this particular location were sufficient to ensure the brine (oversalted water coming out of the plant) would rapidly disperse and minimize its impact on marine flora and fauna.
3. It isn’t too far from the Melbourne’s existing water supply and the Cardinia reservoir where the water is pumped into, reducing again power consumption.
“Will I be sucked into the pipes, and every other fishes as well?”
- Seawater is drawn in from the ocean through a 1.2km tunnel at very low speed, less than 0.15m/s, which is slower than a turtle. So nothing is “sucked” in the intake structures. Also, there is a “grill” protecting the tunnel so nothing comes in. No worries Pingoo! We strongly encourage you to watch our video on how it works for more information!
“But the brine will pollute the water and kill fishes.”
- For 2 litres coming in the plant, 1 litre comes out as desalinated, and 1 litre has twice the concentration of salt. This is the brine. It is returned to the ocean through a 1.5km outlet tunnel at a depth of 23 metres where there are lots of underwater currents so the salt gets diluted within seconds and water returns to background levels about 100m of the discharge point, cancelling the impact of the salt concentration.
“Desalination plants need too much energy. If this plant doesn’t pollute, then the power plant will.”
- Energy consumption is the main issue of desalination plants. It has been greatly reduced with improving technologies though (low energy use membranes and energy recovery devices). Also, the plant power supply will only come from a renewable energy producer: all the energy used by the plant will come from new wind farms and hydro power plants commissioned recently and connected to the electricity grid.
“The community lives on tourism. This plant will definitely spoil the landscape, and tourists won’t come.”
- Visual amenity has always been an active concern of the community. So, integrating the desalination plant into the coastal landscape has been one of the main focus of the companies. And the result is the plant won’t actually be seen from anywhere: most of it will be underground and there will be green roof composed of living native species. The project will also include one of the state’s largest ecological restoration programs, with more than three million plants and 150,000 trees being planted on the site to hide the above ground facilities. This will create a new coastal park with an 8km network of pedestrian, cycling and horse riding path.