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South Africa is set to commission its first solar powered desalination plant at the end of October 2018 in Witsand, Hessequa Municipality in the Western Cape.

The project, initiated by Prof Erwin Schwella, Professor of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch and Tilburg Universities together with the municipality, is co-funded by the Western Cape Government through the drought relief fund, and by the French Treasury, through a fund dedicated to the implementation of innovative green technologies.

In this municipality 250km east of drought-stricken Cape Town, several coastal villages are suffering from a structural water deficit, even outside of drought periods. Read more: CoCT emergency desalination plant prepares to come online

The plant will produce 100kl of fresh water per day powered solely by solar energy to address the normal local water requirement. The plant offers the possibility to supply drinking water besides sunlight hours through the connection to the local electricity grid.

The desalination plant will be specifically used to address the December holiday peak period with a daily production capacity increased to 300kl.

Zero emissions for desalination plant

The technology, OSMOSUN, is developed by French-based Mascara Renewable Water and brought to South Africa by their local partner TWS-Turnkey Water Solutions. It is the world’s first reverse osmosis desalination technology coupled with photovoltaic solar energy without batteries, designed to supply coastal or borehole-dependent communities, with drinking water at a competitive price and without CO2 emissions.

An intelligent system of membranes enables the plant to cope with variations in solar power availability: all parameters are instantly optimised to ensure the best energy performance and simultaneously to guarantee the maximum lifetime of both installation and membranes.

Hessequa municipality’s Executive Mayor, Grant Riddles, said: “The shortage of water in the Western Cape is a harsh reality and only by implementing preventative measures, Hessequa municipality will be able to create water resource stability in our region.

“The Municipality is utilising innovative ideas in combating the effects of climate change, by taking the frontrunner approach in establishing public-private intergovernmental relationships and joint ventures. These partnerships will ensure a green economy that aims at reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” Read more: Koeberg launches groundwater desalination plant

The project not only constitutes a highly innovative model in terms of Franco-South African cooperation, but its sustainable and decentralised production of drinkable water could be replicated in a highly cost-effective manner for communities along the South African coastline, as well as inland, anywhere with sufficient brackish water available.