Energy, Desalination and Solar Ponds: Success and Oblivion of Salts and Solar Power in Atacama Desert, Chile and Beyond, 1907-1981
Dr. Nelson Arellano
Thermosolar artifacts were used in large scale since 1872 when Charles Wilson invented the first desalting apparatus in Atacama Desert. After this, different places as Wendover (Utah, USA), Patmos (Greece), Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain) developed research, planning, projects, laboratories, industries, etc. for sweet water, potash, lithium, and electricity. Some of them had success and others were interrupted and fell into the oblivion. History of technology offers us a multidisciplinary approach to understand the artifactual discard and, later, the intermittent duration of technology. The selection process of technologies is complex because combine several factors of economy, policy, environment, knowledge, social values, cultural matrix, among others (Basalla, 1988). As David Edgerton wrote: the winning technology selected is not always the most
economical (Edgerton, 1999). Therefore, the framework pushes a discussion about Past
Future, Energy and Civilization, and demand for a proper research for this narratives.
An extensive search in USA, European and Chilean archives found a prolific effort in
research and development in XIX and XX centuries trying to produce different solutions for replacing the hegemonic sources of energy provided by hydrocarbon. Those archives contain valuable documents. Also, some specialists were interviewed as an eyewitness. Our sources were: Engineering journals and books; archives in USA, UK, Spain, Italy, and Chile; and, Interviews in Greece, Spain, and Chile.
The analysis of this information demonstrates that those stories of thermosolar technologies remain in the field of loose memories. Histories of technology,
environment, science, economy, and politics haul a very important debt with inventors, researcher, investors and enthusiast engaged with their collaborative network for a crucial area of sustainability that tries to answer if technological Drive from the Past to Future.
BASALLA, George (1988) The evolution of technology, Cambridge University Press.
EDGERTON, D. (2011). The shock of the Old: Technology and global history since
1900. Profile Books.