With 1.1 billion people lacking access to clean, affordable water and a demand expected to only increase by 2050, some are calling water “the next oil”. Shortages are projected globally, but the developing world will be hit the hardest (already 52% lack access to an adequate drinking supply). In response to the water crisis, two U.S. companies have developed an innovative solution, providing fresh water at a fraction of the cost. Teaming wind turbines with water desalinization plants, they’ve developed a engineered, modular facility that can easily be deployed around the world.
The first project is slated for Cape Verde, a small country off the west coast of Africa with one of the lowest groundwater levels on the continent. Once implemented, the technology will reduce dependency on expensive fossil fuels and allow the growing country to meet new demands for infrastructure and agriculture. “We are excited about what this means for communities that have historically gone without affordable fresh water,” said co-founder of the project Brian Kuhn. “With low-cost access to safe sources, communities can avoid many of the diseases associated with inadequate supply, liberate women and children from fetching water and achieve a new level of economic and natural resource sustainability.”
Historically, communities that depend on desalinization plants for their water supply have relied on fossil fuels shipped from other countries. Wind energy, however, reduce dependency on foreign sources and generate the water at half the cost. Finally, the marriage of wind turbines with desalinization plants addresses a historic criticism of wind energy in that storage of wind energy is expensive. In the Wind4Water model, excess water is easily and inexpensively stored.
“At no point in the entire process is wind energy wasted,” Kuhn said. “Depending on the number of wind turbines installed, the plant can meet the energy needs of a small city and funnel all excess energy into generating clean water.”
Kuhn’s company, Associated Wind Developers of Plymouth, MA, hopes to partner with nonprofits and investors in scaling the technology worldwide. He’s already begun conversations with communities in the Caribbean and other parts of Africa. “Our goal is to see new agricultural opportunities, improved health conditions and greater economic development blossom as a direct result of our efforts,” he said.
Wind4Water, a social enterprise based in Massachusetts, is a concept developed by Associated Wind Developers in association with Florida-based Water Management Group, two entrepreneurial companies hoping to make an impact in water-starved regions.
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