Action Group member Seawater Greenhouse launches novel RE desalinated seawater greenhouse

Action Group member Seawater Greenhouse launches novel RE desalinated seawater greenhouse

Action Group Renewable Energy Desalination's member Seawater Greenhouse launches novel RE desalinated seawater greenhouse model

  • Imagine a greenhouse in a parched landscape, that is turning its surroundings into an oasis.
  • Seawater Greenhouse Ltd’s pioneering project near Berbera, Somaliland is doing just that.
  • The one hectare site just produced its first crop of food grown solely with seawater.

This isn't a greenhouse as you may know it: it is a shade net with wind-driven cooling.

In it, seawater trickles over evaporative cardboard pads, keeping the air damp and cool for plants that need 90% less water for irrigation as a result. The remaining 10% comes from a desalination plant (the first in the country) roughly the size of a washing machine, that runs entirely of solar PV panels.

"Transpiration" (water evaporation) from the plant also moistens the air beyond the greenhouse, creating an oasis effect. The project is taking advantage of the changing micro-climate by planting beans, melons, aubergines and neem trees in the regenerated land.
Seawater Greenhouse Ltd's founder and director Charlie Paton, said: "Water shortages are a global crisis that is worsening dramatically. So is land degradation. This represents a scalable model that could be taken anywhere there is limited or no fresh water."
He added: "This is a world-first of an all-new design that we optimised specifically to the climate and harsh conditions in the Horn of Africa, combining photo-selective shade net with wind-driven cooling and solar PV-powered desalination."

Plans to expand
Using simulations that took into account local weather conditions, SG designers were able to develop a system that uses ambient conditions for cooling and ventilation, reducing capital cost by around 10-fold compared to previous Seawater Greenhouse (SG) systems. (SG have previously set up greenhouses in Abu Dhabi, Australia, Oman and Tenerife.) SG plans to expand the pilot – developed in partnership with Aston University in the UK and the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) – to five hectares.
Initial funding came from Innovate UK, but the project is now seeking local investors in Somaliland. Charlie Paton adds: "This project’s ongoing success is going to be dependent on local ownership. Somaliland's a proudly independent nation with a real commitment to improving its food security – for projects like this to flourish, local ownership and investment will be key, so we’re looking for the right partner to help fund expansion."

The aim: to enhance self-sufficiency in one of the world's most drought-prone and food-insecure regions. SG staff alongside PENHA have managed the build while meanwhile recruiting and working with a local team of pastoralists to begin a 'training the trainers' programme that covers greenhouse construction, maintenance, renewable energy and desalination systems.

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