These solar hubs can provide clean water, green electricity & Internet connectivity to 3000 people

Watly solar water purifier
© Watly

Watly aims to deliver a hat trick of very needful things to the developing world, in the form of both a standalone unit and as a network of units.

The team of this ambitious company describes their creation as the "biggest solar-powered computer in the world," which combines solar photovoltaics (PV) and battery storage for powering the unit (and for charging external devices), with a water filtration system and an internet connectivity and telecommunications hub. The Watly system, which has been in the works for the last few years, and has now attracted the attention of The Discovery Channel, was run as a pilot program at a village in Ghana, where the 2.0 version of the device was successfully deployed to deliver clean drinking water to residents.

The next step, however, is to build out the Watly 3.0 system, which is the full-sized version of the device, measuring some 40 meters long, and which is expected to be able to provide as much as 5000 liters of water per day, every day, for at least 15 years, along with producing solar electricity and charging services to as many as 3000 people. According to the company, one unit could offset the emissions equivalent of 2500 barrels of oil over the course of those 15 years, along with providing clean water and an off-grid power source. To get to that next step, Watly has turned to - wait for it - crowdfunding with an Indiegogo campaign that seeks to raise money for the installation of the 3.0 version as a pilot program in Africa (location TBD).

Along with the solar power and drinking water, Watly aims to provide an internet/telecom hub for local residents, with an onboard system for connecting to 3G/4G, radio link data systems, and/or satellites, as well as to communicate with other Watly units to act as a node in an "EnergyNet."

"Watly is a powerful communication device that can collect and send any kind of data (videos, images, audios, texts, ratios, etc.) to the Internet as well as to any other compatible communication device. A single Watly is a standing alone machine, but two or more Watlys become a network where each node is auto-powered, self-sustained and multi-functional."

Here's the quick video pitch:

According to Watly, which has received funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 program, a single Watly 3.0 unit will cost approximately twice what the company's original Indiegogo goal is ($75,000), but it has "a formal commitment from a philanthropist" for the other half of the initial funding. This first unit would provide just clean water (for approximately 750 people), but by reaching the stretch goal of $325,000, the clean power and connectivity components would be added to build out a full Watly system.

"We could not design a modern solution and not think about integrating these three elements altogether. The beauty is that these services can be generated by exclusively harvesting solar energy. We provide clean water by leveraging the thermal effect of the solar irradiation. Through photovoltaic technology we generate electricity. With electricity we can power internal telecommunications devices (for satellite or 4G connection). Watly provides multiple services because each one is the consequence of the other." - Watly

Here's a slightly different overview of what the company is calling "the next big thing":

The water filtration system, which uses a 'vapor compression distillation' process, can effectively desalinate sea water, as well as completely eliminate pathogens and pollutants from dirty water, without requiring any membranes or filters, which can add a failure point as well as an added cost to water systems. According to Watly, this system is "the most effective and powerful method of water purification and desalination available," and because it's entirely solar powered, is an effective off-grid solution.

The Watly unit alone isn't the whole story, either, as the company is also developing a 5-liter tank for transporting the water from the unit to homes, as well as battery-powered portable LED lights that can be charged at the unit and used elsewhere, both as a light source and as a battery bank. An entire Watly system would include all of the water/power/connectivity components, along with 2000 water tanks and 1000 of the LED lights, which would fit into four 40' shipping containers, and be able to be assembled on location in about 4 days. Future integrations may include a drone landing port, a 3D printer, a UV sterilizer, webcams, and more.

Find out more at Watly.

Tags: Solar Technology


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