Bringing clean drinking water to rural Kenya with 100% renewable resources

Friday, October 7, 2022

KENYA: Nestled just east of Nairobi is Kitui, the capital city of Kitui County in Africa. The drought-stricken region faces regularly high temperatures — and the Kitui community, like many others, lacks clean drinking water and the infrastructure to support it. That is, until Finland-based Solar Water Solutions, a frontrunner in renewable-powered water desalination technology, brought their proprietary modular reverse osmosis system to them.

The desalination system in Kitui — a pilot project laying the foundation for 200 more to be installed across Kenya in 2023 — gives the community affordable, clean, and sustainable drinking and irrigation water based entirely on solar power.

Kids drinking from the water station built by Solar Water Solutions and Danfoss

The challenge 

Kitui is a rural, difficult-to-access location with weak municipal water and electrical supply infrastructure. That means it cannot support traditional water treatment systems nor on-site control and monitoring to overcome the town’s polluted brackish water. Plus, water temperature, salt, and other solvents fluctuate and affect a treatment system’s pressure — demanding constant adjustment for optimal performance.

Solar Water Solutions (SWS) identified the opportunity to leverage their 100% solar-powered SolarRO desalination solution in Kitui — and all across Kenya by taking action together with water infrastructure investor Climate Fund Managers. To achieve this goal, they needed the right technology backed by a collaborative partnership.

Danfoss, a long-time partner of Solar Water Solutions, co-developed a solution specifically for the Kitui project that integrated APP high-pressure pumps, VACON® 100 X VFD drives, and the DrivePro® Remote Monitoring solution —together with SWS’s ANVS® valve system — to be the driving force behind the SolarRO desalination system.

The solution 

The containerized and decentralized SolarRO water purification units from Solar Water Solutions are designed to operate in remote locations with renewable energy — and entirely without energy storage or a stable grid. Based on reverse osmosis, the SolarRO system also features SWS’s patented Adaptive Nozzle Valve System (ANVS®) that maintains consistent pressure with the lowest energy consumption of all RO systems.

SWS has long used the versatile Danfoss APP high-pressure pumps that enable the SolarRO system to run at varying speeds with high accuracy. For Kitui, SWS and Danfoss took the solution to the next level, codeveloping a new electrical infrastructure using the VACON® 100 X drives with Solar Pump application as the driving force behind the system.

Plus, the system features a tailor-made Danfoss DrivePro® Remote Monitoring platform. The cloud-based technology allows SWS specialists to adjust system parameters while preventing and resolving issues quickly and accurately — so that the SolarRO units operate independently in villages like Kitui.

Danfoss products installed in the Kitui pilot project

The outcome

The SolarRO desalination system provides Kitui with a sustainable and reliable clean water supply, delivering 1,200 liters/hour of affordable drinking water. Plus, the newly adapted system featuring VACON® 100 X drives, Danfoss APP pumps, and DrivePro® Remote Monitoring, takes brackish water desalination technology and performance to a completely new level.

The versatility of the SolarRO system has opened new possibilities — and, together with Danfoss, Solar Water Solutions has started a research and development project focused on increasing the water production efficiency of the reverse osmosis process to a level 50% higher than the current state-of-the-art systems.

Based on the success in Kitui, Solar Water Solutions, together with its partners, plans to install an additional 200 desalination units in Kenya — which will ultimately provide drinking water for approximately 400,000 citizens in 2023.

Residents in rural Kenya refilling drinking water from a station built by Solar Water Solutions and Danfoss

Powering clean water from solar power

Discover how the VACON® 100 X drives, Danfoss APP pumps, and DrivePro® Remote Monitoring system power Solar Water Solutions’ innovative technology.

Products in this case story

Related solutions

Related case stories

  • if (isSmallPicture) { ; } else if (isBigColumns) { } else { }
    APP pumps with ceramic chosen for containerized solutions

    When a Spanish engineering company needed one compact, reliable, and energy-efficient SWRO solution for three separate end users, Gefico’s engineers proposed a compact, modular train design that could be both containerized and built on skids. Danfoss’s ceramic APP pumps and iSave ERDs are at the heart of the seven trains that Gefico designed and produced

  • if (isSmallPicture) { Hanspeter Sommer walking down the stairs inside Wehrliau pumping station in Bern; } else if (isBigColumns) { Hanspeter Sommer walking down the stairs inside Wehrliau pumping station in Bern } else { Hanspeter Sommer walking down the stairs inside Wehrliau pumping station in Bern }
    How a new water pumping station keeps supply flowing in Bern

    SWITZERLAND: The Wehrliau pumping station in Bern delivers up to 1.20 M liters of drinking water hourly. iC7 drives play a key role in ensuring reliable supply. 

  • if (isSmallPicture) { ; } else if (isBigColumns) { } else { }
    WatMan specifies Danfoss for the world’s largest cruise ship’s SWRO plant

    WatMan Engineering chose Danfoss high-pressure pumps and energy recovery devices as key components in the SWRO plant that supplies fresh water to the world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas. The Finnish water treatment specialist will also rely on Danfoss to keep the water flowing on the next two ships in the Icon class.

  • if (isSmallPicture) { ; } else if (isBigColumns) { } else { }
    Peter Taboada tailors energy-efficient wellboat SWRO with flexible Danfoss technology

    Peter Taboada works closely with wellboat builders to meet their water-making needs. The company focuses on reliable energy efficiency that makes optimal use of available space to maximize their customers’ ROI. Flexible Danfoss high-pressure pumps and ERDs are part of the company’s success.

  • if (isSmallPicture) { SWRO plants for emergency situations; } else if (isBigColumns) { SWRO plants for emergency situations } else { SWRO plants for emergency situations }
    Danfoss components chosen to provide fresh water in emergency situations

    Metis Water chose Danfoss APP pumps and iSave ERDs for its mobile 1,000 m3/d SWRO plant. Designed to fit inside a 40 ft container, the plug-and-play solution can quickly be deployed to supply fresh water in emergency situations – reliably and energy efficiently.

  • if (isSmallPicture) { Romanian field from the irrigation project; } else if (isBigColumns) { Romanian field from the irrigation project } else { Romanian field from the irrigation project }
    How did Sincrondraiv SRL improve irrigation pumping efficiency by up to 40%?

    ROMANIA: Digitizing irrigation systems helps farmers achieve better harvests. Pumping stations now use 30-40% less energy and use water more efficiently too.