Sun, wind power water-makers

Reverse osmosis expert Tom Vance speaks to the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures about successful solar and wind-powered water-making units on remote islands in the Marshall Islands. Photo: Kelly Lorennij.


The front line defense against climate change is renewable energy – solar, wind, water, and waste as alternative sources that will provide power in lieu of carbon-emitting fossil fuels such as diesel. Renewable energy was the focus of the Association of Pacific Legislatures general assembly held at the Nitijela recently, and such alternative energy solutions will play a significant role in the Marshall Islands as it works towards achieving its ambitious net-zero target in the next three decades.

Among the larger renewable energy projects ongoing in the Marshalls is reverse osmosis (RO) water-making technology. Tom Vance, who launched Moana Marine in the US and then in the Marshall Islands, presented to the legislative leaders on the work done in powering reverse osmosis water systems in the RMI. Vance designed RO water treatment plants that are powered by wind and solar. These are customized to suit tropical and outer island environments.

This led to the first hybrid solar and wind-powered RO system in the Pacific region that was designed and installed on Utrok Atoll in 2010 with the use of land-based units from Spectra, which is the global leader in energy efficient water-making systems. Vance reported to the assembly of legislators that the installation was successful and since then this global model continues to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Utrok while being operating exclusively by local technicians who trained with Vance.

Wind and solar have worked very well in the region, he continued, and with the trade winds of the northern islands, wind power has been very effective and less costly than solar energy.

Utrok had gone as long as 12 months without rain at one point, but the balance between solar and wind has saved $165,000 in diesel fuel and brought water relief to the atoll. The same technology was replicated on Kili Island, which has been running for five years now.

Read more about this in the August 9, 2019 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.