San Rafael firm's solar-powered product, takes process to new level

SAN RAFAEL -- Spectrawatermakers has moved solar-powered desalination a major step forward with a new, super-efficient energy-recovery pump.

The Pearson Pump is a major innovation from a company whose first reverse-osmosis, solar- and wind-powered desalination product has led the market in efficiency for the last 15 years.

Spectra's Solar Cube is a standard among long-distance sailors and can be found in remote villages and scenes of disaster worldwide.

"Some are in use in Chile right now," said Sales Director Ray Carter. "In Haiti, the infrastructure is so poor and need so great that efficiency is not yet the goal. The military is using large generators there."

A large yacht docked in the Port Au Prince harbor is producing potable water with a Solar Cube, he said.

The Solar Cube stores energy collected from a wind generator and solar panels and uses it to push water through a pre-filtration system and then through a membrane, which removes bacteria, viruses, salts and harmful chemicals.

Spectra's systems fill the gap between individual home- or boat-based water purification and large-scale operations. They can serve a village, an oil rig or a lake resort.

But the new pump has the potential to serve larger operations, although not yet on the scale of the Marin desalination project, he said. It's capable of pumping up to ten thousand gallons of potable water a day at 10 watts per gallon, three times more energy-efficient than any other system on the market.

The Pearson Pump, which integrates the feed-water pumping and energy recovery into a single, 32-pound unit, is successfully operating in the deserts of Dubai, Iraq and South Pacific islands.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has funded Spectra's research in the past, has contracted with the company for an advanced project, said Mr. Carter.

Spectra does not disclose revenues, but during the past few years the company has grown from 12 to 20 employees and doubled its assembly space to 20,000 square feet on Mariposa Road in San Rafael.

"We took over the entire building," said Mr. Carter.

The systems are distributed by Spectra's manufacturing partners Trunz and Worldwater Solar.

The company was founded in 1997 as a division of Edinger Marine Service, itself founded in 1976 by Spectra president Bill Edinger.

"Our main thrust is still the marine market, but our land-based segment is growing rapidly to serve humanitarian, disaster relief, agriculture and off-grid markets," said Mr. Carter.

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