article / 29 June 2022

Hydropanels; a self-sustaining renewable water technology 

In an effort to sustainably supply clean water within the conservancy, Ol Pejeta has installed Hydropanels; a water technology that utilizes solar energy to extract clean, pollutant-free drinking water from the atmosphere. The technology is designed to meet the water demand in the Conservancy and ultimately mitigate the effects of climate change.

Hydropanels Installation At Ol Pejeta Conservancy

There is no doubt that we have not fully unearthed the possibilities and concepts surrounding the most precious resource on Earth. This resource makes up approximately 71% of the earth’s surface and 80% of our bodies. It is a transparent, odorless and tasteless liquid that is vital for all forms of life; it is everywhere within a deeply interconnected system, composed of hydrogen and oxygen, and regulates the earth’s temperature.

Most importantly, however, for the sake of this article, we will focus on its ability to change from one state to another. If you attended your Chemistry classes, you probably now know what this resource is: Water!

The need to adopt innovative ways of meeting water demand within Ol Pejeta Conservancy led to a collaborative project involving the deployment of sustainable technology to serve the objective. Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and home to the last two northern white rhinos, sits on 90,000 acres of semi-arid land. It sources most of its water for wildlife from Ngobit River, Ewaso Ng'iro River, boreholes and dams. For human consumption, water is sourced from boreholes and Ngobit river.

The Concept of Hydropanels

Utilising the power of the sun, hydropanels are able to extract clean, pollutant-free drinking water from the atmosphere. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, we first need to understand the water cycle concept. The water cycle is a biogeochemical cycle that involves the continuous circulation of water between the hydrosphere, lithosphere and the atmosphere. This cyclic movement occurs through physical processes such as evaporation, condensation, precipitation and surface run-off, driven by solar energy. Having the water cycle in mind will facilitate the proper comprehension of how hydropanels work.

A hydropanel installed at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

A hydropanel is a self-sustaining renewable water technology that integrates several patented innovations alongside proprietary trade secrets. Hydropanels have air filters on the side that take in atmospheric air, which is absorbed and collected by a hygroscopic material ( a moisture absorbing material). The solar energy harnessed to power the panel off-grid converts the water vapor into pure liquid water, collected in a reservoir. The pure water is then mineralized with added calcium and magnesium, which are vital to the body and aid in enhancing the taste value of the water. 

Close-up image of Hydropanel air filters that trap air from the atmosphere

On average, each of the hydropanels produce two to five  litres of water per day. Water produced from the hydropanels is then pumped using an in-built water pump, powered by solar energy, and channeled to a dispenser where it can be collected using a reusable bottle. 

Consumer fetching water from a Source Dispenser at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

The hydropanels have sensors that monitor and optimise the quality of water produced. Water produced by the hydropanels is dependent on the local climatic conditions, mostly the relative humidity and solar energy. The panels have a lifespan of 15 years and are able to efficiently serve communities by providing clean, sustainable drinking water from the atmosphere. 
Hydropanels offer unparalleled opportunities to deliver positive social, environmental and economical impacts. This renewable water technology is powered by green energy, eliminates the need for single-use plastic and is able to provide quality potable water to communities! 

The Story

Source believes that perfect water is not found on earth, but above it. Through the Solarization Project, GivePower Foundation organized a Trek (a trip that brings together people to travel to a remote village that lacks access to electricity and participate in renewable energy installation in this case, solar)  in partnership with Climate Real Impact Solutions and Source, to install 10 hydropanels at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. 

The hydropanel plant at Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Interestingly, the entire project -from planning to implementation- ran for a quick three weeks and is currently in the post-monitoring and control phase. The water harnessed from the hydropanels is able to comfortably serve the 65 rangers within the National Police Reserve (NPR) campsite at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

For monitoring purposes, each installed hydropanel is connected wirelessly to the SOURCE Network Operations Center (NOC) for alert management, service and troubleshooting. The NOC manages system-prompted issues automatically and responds to customer-prompted issues. The Source App allows users to  monitor water quality, track reservoir level and water production, and get a notification when the hydropanels need to be serviced. Data collected from the SOURCE hydropanels is fed into a model that performs predictive analysis to inform on the water production at the plant.

Challenges Encountered

Challenges encountered during projects such as this one are sometimes inevitable, and should be tackled with deliberation in order to deliver on time and as per the desired standards. This project, like any other, was not without its share of challenges, but the team’s resilience ensured that the eventual results were as expected.

The biggest challenge was  the tight project timeframe. The time allocated for hydropanels installation generally varies depending on the scale of the project in terms of the size of the plant and the number of panels required. Factors such as prior installation of solar panels or a pumping means greatly influences the timescale of the project; by reducing the time and budget for installation. In this case, solar panels had already been installed. However,   the necessary Trek team were only available for a short period of time, hence the tight time frame.

Aside from scheduling difficulties, another challenge arose from the perceptions of this technology. Although the SOURCE hydropanels are designed and tested to produce high quality drinking water, the rangers at Ol Pejeta Conservancy - who are the main beneficiaries of this project - were new to the idea of trapping water from the atmosphere. 
They raised some expected questions on the quality of the water that will be produced and how safe it is for consumption. To reassure them, the Trek team sent samples to the county laboratory for testing through the Ol Pejeta Health and Safety Officer, which helped ease any concerns.

Opportunities and Future Work

Ol Pejeta Conservancy and its partners hope to upscale this project by installing more hydropanels to serve tourists coming into the conservancy and the communities around.

Through this project, the conservancy is optimistic that their message on the need to think of innovative ways to sustainably provide clean drinking water, without necessarily abstracting underground water, will be passed to the public. This will contribute greatly to the efforts of mitigating climate change, especially in Arid and Semi Arid lands, which bear the biggest brunt of the effects of climate change.

Over its 15-year lifespan, one hydropanel eliminates the use of 54,000 single-use plastic water bottles, therefore contributing to a reduction in plastic waste and consequently, a reduction in pollution levels. This project endeavors to facilitate achieving the United Nations Sustainable development goals by: ensuring good health and well-being (SDG 3), providing clean water and proper sanitation ( SDG 6), and contributing to Climate Action (SDG 13).


This project was made possible through the thoughtful contribution of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Source, Give Power Foundation and Climate Real Impact Solutions. Special thanks goes to William Njoroge -Head of Technology, Ol Pejeta Conservancy- who oversaw the entire project and made sure the objectives were met.

Information on hydropanels can be accessed on this page. If being part of a Trek intrigues you, and you’d like to participate in an impactful project, kindly visit this page to get details on the same. 


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