3 minute read

Clean water easily and sustainably in remote locations

The provision of affordable pristine water in remote and off-grid areas no longer needs to be a challenging task.

Many rural communities, schools and clinics in South Africa still lack access to reliable water supply and rely on unhygienic water from boreholes, rivers or lakes. This no longer needs to be the case. Finnish company Solar Water Solutions has developed an ultra-low consumption, reverse osmosis, water purification system.

“SolarRO units run directly with 100% solar power – no batteries, generator or grid is needed,” says Vuokko Laurila from Envirotech Africa, a distributor of the unique water technology in Southern Africa.

The system makes clean drinking water without chemicals and emissions, directly from impure rivers, lakes and saline boreholes or seawater. The production water of the SolarRO units has also been certified as high-standard quality water, and meets WHO standards for excellent drinking water.

Due to the variable nature of solar energy, SolarRO’s unique patented technology creates constant pressure for the reverse osmosis process. The automatic, adaptive valve system, ANVS, maximises water production, enabling optimal flow rate throughout the day. The result is the ability to produce clean water with solar power without energy storage. All units can also be used with a hybrid power source.

Solar Water Solutions can reduce the energy cost of desalinated seawater to 1.8 kWh/m3. A single SolarRO hybrid container can produce up to 500 m3/day. The scalable system operates with solar energy during the day and with a generator or grid during the nonsolar hours.

Solar Water Solutions has ISO 14001:2015 Environmental and ISO 9001:2015 QMS certifications.

Zero emissions

This local solution supplies safe water to people living in remote areas without electricity, with no need to transport water. The need for singleuse plastic bottles is also minimised.

Complete solution

SolarRO water purification units can be combined with the Lorentz SmartTAP app – an off-grid water dispensing and management system enabling revenue collection, water entitlement and sustainable water provision. A simple graphical display allows users to comfortably operate it without training. Users of the system access water using a tag.

Hitting UN SDGs

The Solar Water ATMs tackle at least five out of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely: Clean Water and Sanitation, Climate Action, Affordable and Clean Energy, Good Health and Well-being, and Gender Equality.

Women and children are typically the ones who spend hours carrying water. A broader interpretation could include five or six more SDGs, which shows how essential clean, affordable water is for all aspects of life.

Successful rural plant in Kenya

SolarRO water purification units were installed in drought-stricken Kenya early this year. The unmanned Solar Water ATMs enable locals to vend water using a simple mobile payment, lowering the threshold and price of getting drinking water. SolarRO units now give access to 13 m3/day of WHO-standard drinking water to customers in Kitui County at less than R2 per 20 ℓ canister.

Future business model for provision of water in rural Africa?

Solar Water Solutions is going a step further by providing a business model in which Solar Water ATMs create a steady revenue flow for infrastructure investors, impact investors and franchise entreprenuers. By creating the business opportunity, Solar Water Solutions plant enables investors to increase their efforts for a positive impact, leading to better availability and access to drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sea water

SolarRO technology has also been proven in Namibia in 2019. Namibia’s first-ever fully solar-powered desalination system, which makes highquality water straight from the ocean, was commissioned as a joint initiative of the University of Nambia and the University of Turku, Finland. The new SolarRO plant produces safe water for drinking and irrigation purposes. The decentralised system is situated close to the beach and installed in a container. The modular and scalable system produces 3 500 litres of water per hour from the ocean with zero energy and without any batteries during non-solar hours.

*Image credit: Solar Water Solutions