Clean tech for clean water project in Maldives

A unique solar-powered, off-grid, water purification project will begin in the Maldives in January 2005, providing local bottled drinking water to be sold to the local community on the island of Kulhudhuffushi.

The project, two years in development, is a joint venture between Solar Energy Systems Infrastructure (SESI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Solco, and a local Maldives company, CDE Pvt Ltd.

Once it is up and running, the project’s financier, Solar Investment Fund managed by the Netherlands-based ethical bank Triodos, is considering additional funding for further island water-purification projects throughout the Maldives. The Maldives Foreign Investment Services Bureau has identified twenty islands as having suitable water supplies and a sustainable population base for the units.

The units use solar power to draw the water up from brackish sources below the surface and pass it through a system of reverse osmosis units to remove all pathogens, metals and dissolved solids, using just 20% of the power of a standard reverse osmosis unit.

Each unit can produce 500 litres of water per day from a single 100 Watt (1 square metre) solar panel.

Anthony Maslin, co-founder of Solco Ltd and Executive Director of Solar Energy Systems Infrastructure Ltd, said: “There are other water purification technologies using the same process of reverse osmosis that Solarflow uses, but they are mostly powered by diesel. Solarflow will be cheaper on a price per litre basis and of course have none of diesel’s impact on air pollution, climate change or difficulties with maintenance and remote access.”

Mr Maslin added that two major barriers to renewable energy powered infrastructures in remote areas have been high up-front capital costs and the difficulties ensuring maintenance of the system.

“What’s new about Solarflow is not just the combination of power and purification, but the business model we’re developing behind it. We will be selling the water, not the means to produce it. This hasn’t been tried before in the solar field. With local partners and a strong projected income stream, we’ve been able to get debt finance. We have potential opportunities with our current partner on at least 20 other islands so I think we have a viable long-term solution to the Maldives water requirements, which will also be applicable in other off-grid island communities – Indonesia and the Philippines for example.”

Solco expect to be able to deliver daily requirements for clean water (as defined by the World Health Organisation as 6.0 litres a day) for AUS 12 cents per person per day.

By David Hopkins

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie