Solar firm unveils off-grid tech for potable water using sun and air

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

A groundbreaking technology providing good drinking water for Filipinos everywhere using sunlight and air and without relying on government infrastructure is now available in the country.

The four Source Hydropanel units on the rooftop of ADB in Mandaluyong, alongside solar power installations also mounted by Green Heat in 2014

This is made possible by the launch of Source by solar provider Green Heat Corporation in partnership with US-based Zero Mass Water (ZMW) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) on June 21 at the ADB office in Mandaluyong City.

Developed by ZMW, Source is a solar-powered off-grid Hydropanel that collects water vapor from the air into an absorbent material. It goes into a reservoir where it undergoes mineralization with calcium and magnesium to make it healthy and tasteful.

Potable water is then delivered to an in-home tap ready for use. Water quality and production of each installed panel is monitored daily at the ZMW Network Operations Center.

According to Green Heat director Glenn Tong, Source is both self-sufficient, low-maintenance, and works well with other solar PV systems. It can also be installed anywhere, thus allowing people in urban and rural areas to have access to clean, safe drinking water.

ADB’s Manila headquarters is a beneficiary of this innovation with four Source Hydropanels installed on its roof.

“We believe that clean, safe, potable water is the right of everybody in the Philippines,” said Tong. “We are surrounded by water and yet half the population outside of the cities has no access to clean drinking water.”

The country’s geography, with its array of islands, even adds more barriers to people’s dependence on traditional water infrastructure, added ZMW CEO Cody Friesen.

Zero Mass Water CEO Cody Friesen

According to data from the National Water Resources Board, freshwater in the Philippines totals about 149.5 billion cubic meters per year. However, the World Bank indicated in 2014 that demand for water is at around 81.6 billion cubic meters annually.

Thus, ZMW aims “to perfect water for every person in every place,” said Friesen, while getting rid of the use of plastic bottles and lessening carbon footprint. The Philippines, in particular has contributed 1.88 million tons of “mismanaged plastic waste” in 2017, according to Greenpeace.

Each Hydropanel eliminates up to 50,000 standard PET bottles while each liter of bottled water yields around 1 kilogram of carbon.

At $2,000 per panel exclusive of installation cost, Source Hydropanel may be installed in single family homes, offices, schools, hotels, resorts, villages with poor access to clean water, among others. It has applications for disaster relief, wildlife, and child care, to name a few.

ZMW is now helping to deploy the technology to both urban and rural areas around the country along with Green Heat and the Philippine National Electrification Administration. The latter is set to bring 40 hydropanel units to eight electric cooperatives in remote islands.

Source Hydropanels are now being used in 16 countries across five continents, in locations of varying environmental conditions. Among these are schools in USA, Mexico, Lebanon and soon in Vanuatu as well as in desert lands where animals had been displaced by human activity.

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