Final approval for Carlsbad desalination plant

The Carlsbad desalination plant.
The Carlsbad desalination plant.

Known as the Carlsbad desalination project, the plant will produce 50 million gallons of water per day, to be used in San Diego, California. It is thought that the approval for the plant will set a precedent for other desalination plants in California, as water supply and demand continue to be an issue in the state. The Carlsbad project is expected to break ground this year, and be operational in 2012.

Scott Maloni of Poseidon Resources, the project's developer, stated that the issues resolved by the regulators were resolved unanimously, as the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board voted to approve the desalination plant's flow, impingement and entrainment minimisation plan. This was a condition to the original permits issued by the Board in 2006. The plan is designed to avoid or/and mitigate impact to marine life that could occur when the desalination plant is more water than is provided by the host power plant. 

While there are lessons to be learned from the Carlsbad project, especially relating to the permitting of large-scale seawater desalination plants in the US, Maloni believes that the approval of this plant will not open the floodgates to more desalination plants - rather, every project will have to be developed on a site specific basis and Carlsbad can provide a road map for how to develop these projects.

As part of the coastal development permit from the Californa Coastal Commission, a voluntary energy minimisation and greenhouse gas reduction plan  was developed. This includes offsetting indirect carbon emissions, making the Carlsbad plant the first large-scale infrastructure project in California to voluntarily neutralise its net carbon footprint.

Poseidon Resources are also involved in permits for a second 50MGD desalination plant in Huntingdon Beach, California. This project is currently running a year behind the Carlsbad plant.