Electricity + Control

The first highly cost-effective solar powered desalination plant in South Africa will be commissioned by the end of October 2018 at Witsand, Hessequa Municipality in the Western Cape. 

First solar powered desalination plant launched

This project was initiated by Prof. Erwin Schwella, Professor of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch and Tilburg Universities along with the Municipality of Hessequa and 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. 

Even outside of drought periods, several coastal villages within this Municipality ― located 250 km east of Cape Town ― are suffering from a structural water deficit. A site which forms part of Witsand village was designated for the implementation of this desalination unit which is set to produce 100 kl of fresh water per day.

Through its connection to the local electricity grid, this plant will be able to supply drinking water to communities even during the evening. This feature will be used to address the December holiday peak period, with the daily production capacity increasing to 300 kl.

The technology, OSMOSUN®, developed by the French Company Mascara Renewable Water and brought to South Africa by their local partner Turnkey Water Solutions (TWS), is the world’s first reverse osmosis desalination technology. Coupled with photovoltaic solar energy without batteries, OSMOSUN® was designed to supply coastal or borehole-dependent communities with drinking water at a competitive price without any 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 while simultaneously guaranteeing the maximum life of both installation and membranes. 

 “The shortage of water in the Western Cape is a harsh reality and, only by implementing preventative measures, will Hessequa municipality be able to create water resource stability in our region. The Municipality is utilising innovative ideas to combat 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 to reduce environmental risks and ecological scarcities,” says Hessequa Executive Mayor Grant Riddles. 

Marc Vergnet, Mascara CEO concludes: “The sun has been desalinating oceans for millennia and Mascara is delighted to provide its nature-inspired resilient solution as part of its duty of sustainably alleviating the water crisis of the region.”

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 South Africa’s coastal and inland communities.