Small-Scale Solar Desalination System Aims for Affordable Water Independence

©. Desolenator

By combining solar PV, solar thermal, and a heat exchanger, Desolenator has developed a low-cost portable water purifier and desalination device powered by renewable energy.

For most of us living in the developed world, access to clean drinking water isn't that big of a deal - we simply turn on the tap and potable water flows out until we shut it off. But for many people around the world, getting clean water isn't nearly as simple, and the combined effects of contaminated drinking water and the lack of adequate sanitary facilities can take a huge toll on both individuals and communities.

Water purification and desalination equipment can turn dirty water or sea water into clean drinkable water, but many of the existing water solutions, on top of being rather costly, also require additional inputs, from energy to materials, and other than passive solar stills (which tend to have low yields), there aren't a whole lot of other options, especially if portability and affordability are factored in to the equation.

A New Water-Cleaning Solution

But one team of innovators believe they have the answer, or at least one of the answers, to water independence, in the form of a small-scale, portable, solar-powered water purification device that can convert up to 15 liters of clean water per day, called the Desolenator.

"We take the solar radiation that hits the surface of the system and harness ALL of it. Unlike reverse osmosis systems that are expensive, have consumables and which are usually powered by fossil fuels or solar stills which have a low yield, Desolenator is robust, energy independent and has no moving parts. During its lifetime Desolenator will desalinate water at a lower cost per litre than any system at this scale available on the market today. "

The Desolenator team, led by CEO William Janssen, inventor of the technology, took second place in the Climate KiC Clean Launch Pad 2014 competition, as well as been supported by iXspark, a clean tech incubator, and now they want to finish development, do field-testing, and go into production with their device, so they've turned to Indiegogo to raise the necessary capital.

Costs and Durability

The estimated cost of the Desolenator is said to be about $450, which isn't exactly cheap, especially for those in the developing world, but according to the company, the device lasts for up to 20 years (with no further inputs, other than water, being necessary), so the long-term per-liter costs are lower than other methods (such as water truck deliveries). The company also says it is looking at different business models for the Desolenator, including shared ownership, microfinancing, and per-use pricing, in order to best fit the needs of its potential users.