They are like solar panels, except instead of electricity, they produce water.
Global Source Hydropanels create water out of thin air and bring it to where it is needed most. CEO Cody Friesen invented the panels in 2014 at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, where he is a professor.
A year later, he turned the science into Source Global. Start-up panels cost about $2,000 a piece.
“We take sunlight and air and we can produce perfect drinking water essentially anywhere on the planet,” Friesen said. “So we take water that has historically been probably humanity’s biggest challenge and turn it into a renewable resource that is perfect essentially everywhere.”
Source hydropanels take water vapor from the air and pack it into a form that is about 10,000 times more concentrated than in the atmosphere. Using heat from the sun, the system converts the molecules into liquid water, which is collected in a reservoir inside the panel and then released as pure water.
By 2018, Friesen had installed a series of 40 hydropanels in Kenya, where members of the Samburu Girls Foundation faced daily danger on their journeys to find water. Now they have their own water source.
“Now we can make perfect water, in your home, in your school, in your community in a way that really brings it into the 21st century,” Friesen said.
Source hydropanels are installed in 52 countries in 450 separate projects. The company has raised $150 million from investors, including Bill Gates’ innovative energy companies, black rock, duke of power and the Lightsmith Group.
This kind of technology is desperately needed in places like India, where an estimated 800,000 villages lack clean drinking water. Friesen cited the World Health Organization, which shows that by 2025 “half of the world’s population will be in water-scarce areas.”
There is also a domestic need. In the US, there are still 1.5 million miles of lead pipes in the ground and about 750 water pipe breaks per day, according to Friesen. The business opportunity, he said, is huge.