In a coastal city in Namibia, a small shipping container near the beach sits surrounded by solar panels. Inside, new technology uses that solar power to turn ocean water from the Atlantic into drinking water. Namibia is in the middle of a prolonged drought. The president recently declared the second state of emergency in three years because the lack of rain is leading to severe food shortages. But if scaled up, this technology could help supply households and agriculture with fresh water. The basic tech that it uses for desalination, called reverse osmosis, isn’t new. But because the system can run on solar power, without the use of batteries, it avoids the large carbon footprint of a typical energy-hungry desalination plant. It’s also significantly cheaper over the lifetime of the system. [Photo: Solar Water Solutions] “Basically the running costs are zero, because solar is free,” says Antti Pohjola, CEO of Solar Water Solutions, the Finland-based startup that makes the technology. Desalination usually uses large amounts of electricity because reverse osmosis requires keeping water at a constant pressure. The new tech keeps water at the right pressure independently, so it can work without connecting to the grid or using a […]

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