Back in December 2012, we ran across a young woman named Eden Full, who won a 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship for a very clever device that took in dirty water at one end, used that water to power a solar tracker along the way, and then spit out clean water at the other end. That was the beginning of SunSaluter. Recently, I was contacted by Jake Schual-Berke, SunSaluter’s chief operating officer. He wanted to give us an update on the progress the company has made.
In a nutshell, here’s what he said. The design of the water clock mechanism has changed. Now, it is much more user-friendly and easier to ship. The cost of the SunSaluter has dropped by 50 percent, making it much more affordable. A prefabricated version is now available in addition to the kit. The tracking capability increases the energy output by about 30 percent when compared with a stationary solar panel. The filtration system will process 4 liters per day for each tracker.
The company now has a manufacturing team in Bangalore, India, (moved from Canada) and a distribution partner, Recapo, in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Schual-Berke told us: “The SunSaluter design has evolved to where it’s a viable product, and we’re selling it and getting it out there. We’re also emphasizing our nonprofit work more, emphasizing our capacity building and doing entrepreneurship training. Our goal is really to get local entrepreneurs to take the SunSaluter technology and run with it.”
Says 22-year-old CEO Eden Full: “Since the last piece on Triple Pundit, SunSaluter’s core technology of using a water clock has not changed, but the design has been tweaked for different environments/solar panel installation sizes.”
When we last covered SunSaluter in 2012, the organization only had a few units deployed in the field. Now, SunSaluter has units deployed in 16 countries, with partnerships with several major organizations, particularly in India and Malawi where its offices are located, Full told us. “We have more of a track record now that proves that SunSaluter’s technology works, and it really makes a difference in the places that it has been deployed,” she continued.
“The primary change since we last spoke has been around our approach to scaling this technology,” Full said. “SunSaluter was formally registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2014, with our aim being to bring electricity and clean water to developing communities through a grassroots network of entrepreneurs. This means that instead of having our global organization try and start businesses in each individual country, which would be a slow and inefficient process, we focus on teaching others how to leverage our technology to create businesses.
“We teach local entrepreneurs best practices, how to become a SunSaluter manufacturer and we connect them to other organizations who can help in their location. This way, SunSaluter as a global entity is more focused on economic empowerment by advocating for increased energy and clean water. We’d love to collaborate with any organizations that have likeminded goals related to energy, water, health, social impact, international development and economic empowerment.”
SunSaluter now has 140 units out in the field in 16 countries. Its target is 1,000 by the end of this year and 10,000 by the end of 2016.
Recapo started working with SunSaluter in 2013 to develop a solution for providing power for basic household lighting and powering small electronics in Malawi, Lawrence Matengula, a spokesman for the company, told TriplePundit.
“As an organization, Recapo understands that the communities that we serve urgently need basic lighting and a source of clean water for consumption,” Matengula said. “The high cost of solar panels added to hidden costs charged by so-called ‘professional installers’ makes the adoption of solar energy impossible in rural Malawi.”
The SunSaluter provides a way for Recapo to maximize the potential of photovoltaic panels to capture solar energy and at the same time provide a water filtration system for a household, Matengula continued.
“The SunSaluter is easy to assemble, combining simple kits shipped to Malawi with local materials that trained local teams are able to manage. We have developed a complete solar energy and water filtering system for a household in Malawi and have since introduced the product to various people and organizations in our community.”
SunSaluter is currently looking for partners around the world to bring this revolutionary technology to new markets. Find out how to become a project, distribution, or manufacturing partner here.
Images courtesy of SunSaluter