Water & Drought

Solar desalination firm begins search for investors

Purifying drainage water with the power of the sun

The 377-foot-long WaterFX SkyTrough parabolic mirror, is used to desalinate drainage water, at the experimental plant near Firebaugh.
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The 377-foot-long WaterFX SkyTrough parabolic mirror, is used to desalinate drainage water, at the experimental plant near Firebaugh.

A company with plans to build a $30 million, solar-powered water desalination plant in western Fresno County has launched its effort to attract investors through a state-registered direct public offering, or a regulated form of crowdfunding.

WaterFX, which operates a pilot plant on land owned by the Panoche Water District near Firebaugh, hopes to raise $10 million through the DPO, offering up to 2 million shares of preferred stock at $5 per share. WaterFX’s HydroRevolution offering is registered with the California Department of Business Oversight, which issued a permit authorizing the sale in August. The stock offering is open for a year. Investment is open only to qualifying California residents.

The pilot-scale desalination plant uses a 377-foot-long parabolic mirror called a SkyTrough to reflect and focus sunlight on an oil-filled pipe running the length of the mirror. The superheated oil flows to a treatment plant to boil salt-tainted agricultural irrigation runoff water. The steam is captured and condensed as pure water, while the salts and minerals are concentrated for disposal or potential sale.

The commercial-scale plant would include 35 such SkyTroughs and, WaterFX chairman Aaron Mandell said, be capable of treating enough irrigation runoff to produce about 2,200 acre-feet of water per year in its first phase, with a second phase expanding the capacity to about 5,000 acre-feet.

An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons of water, estimated to be enough to supply an average Valley family for about 18 months. The company has a contract with the Panoche Water District to buy the treated water.

In addition to the $10 million sought from investors, WaterFX expects to borrow and take on debt for the remaining $20 million needed to build the plant.

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