Solar energy driven desalination on the Virgin Islands

Solving fresh water scarcity, using only the sea, sun, earth and wind

Posted on 28 September 2015


The Virgin Islands are the first to use a new renewable energy driven desalination solution that turns seawater into fresh water, developed by Dutch clean tech company Elemental Water Makers. The solution provides 12500 liters or 3300 gallons of fresh water from seawater on a daily basis, while using only power from the sun. Elemental Water Makers therewith provides an alternative for a reliable supply of fresh water at lower costs, while simultaneously avoiding carbon dioxide emissions. Through a real-time monitoring portal, the water production and solar energy used on the Virgin Islands can be watched online from anywhere around the world. The solution is scalable up to a million liters per day. 

Increasing fresh water scarcity and limited availability of fossil fuels demand new solutions using sustainable energy. With unlimited availability of seawater and increasing renewable energy opportunities, desalination using renewable energy seems like the obvious solution. But there were barriers for implementation of these methods until now.

The commonly used and most energy efficient technology of reverse osmosis is designed for constant operation, while renewable energies such as the sun and wind fluctuate over time. As a result of the required use of batteries or operating discontinuously, existing alternatives are expensive. Elemental Water Makers solves this problem.

The fresh water company from the Netherlands constantly converts seawater using only fluctuating renewable energy source(s). A constant reverse osmosis process is enabled through a salt water buffer installed at a higher level of elevation. This buffer provides the required pressure for the desalination process using the power of gravity. The elevation difference required is reduced by 80% using a mechanical form of energy recovery, re-using the excess energy still present in the brine flow. Costs savings are realized by avoiding electricity usage, batteries, energy conversion losses and frequent maintenance.  

Watch the video of the commissioned installation:


  • 63% cost savings on the water expenses
  • Yearly avoiding emissions of 25 tons of carbon dioxide
  • Independent reliable supply of fresh water, using the unlimited resources of the sea and sun

Current status
Commissioned in July 2015

Technologies used

Reverse osmosis, solar energy

Project location

Project partners

  • Elemental Water Makers B.V.