Over 800 million people worldwide don’t have access to clean water, and that number is projected to reach at least 1.8 billion over the next decade. This problem struck a chord with Austrian well-maker turned entrepreneur Dietmar Stuck. His patented solar water pump technology aims to address this problem.
Now, even where lack of access to adequate power or fuel keeps conventional water pumps idle, there is a solution to the water crisis. It requires no maintenance, uses local knowledge and resources, and its developers want people to use it to make money. Sounds too good to be true?
Dietmar Stuck founded Pumpmakers and utilized his company’s patented New Solar Pump (NSP). PM Pumpmakers GmBh is an Austrian social enterprise led by Stuck that specializes in renewable energy R&D. He and his team of engineers developed the New Solar Pump with sustainable development in mind; it is a virtually maintenance-free solar platform that can pump over 5000L per day from depths as far as 100 meters, even on cloudy days.
Inexpensive and Locally Available
The system is inexpensive and can be manufactured with locally-available parts. It can also replace pre-existing systems including hand pumps, diesel pumps or windmill pumps, which are expensive to maintain, are reliant on unstable power grids, or are often too expensive to import. Stuck’s commitment to sustainable development and his social commitments to various charity, relief, and aid organizations has led him to develop the Pumpmaker’s Platform , which aims to offer any user easy access to water, wherever it exists.
The science is fairly simple. The solar panels produce energy that is transformed by a brushless electric motor, which drives a gear, which causes a winder to rotate. The winder is connected to a pumping lever, causing it to move up and down. Above the well floor is a pump piston, which carries the water to the surface. While it still functions on cloudy days, the system also has a hand pump, so it is usable at night. Compared to hand pumps, for example (the most common pumps in the Global South next to those reliant on diesel), the NSP pump provides 3 – 15 times more output.
The system boasts virtually no running costs by relying primarily on renewable solar energy, and its high-quality components make it basically maintenance-free. The pump system is constructed of wear-free materials, unique sealing solutions and lifetime lubrications, which extends the life of the equipment. It is also salt-water resistant, so it won’t corrode over time like most other pumps, and that makes the system of particular use for desalination purposes and coastal communities.
The concept for the Pumpmakers’ Platform is stunningly selfless. The product is well-suited for resource-poor communities. Rather than sell their pumps, the good folks at Pumpmakers are, in a way, giving away their R&D. Once their platform is ready, the intention is for anyone to be able to use it for next to nothing. The online platform will provide a fully accessible international program, complete with a download for DIY construction plans (with videos) and installation instructions, backed by a well-coordinated support system. These plans have been developed to enable to end-users to construct the pump from locally sourced materials, although some smaller, more complex parts like the gear units will have to be purchased from their webshop.
The developers also encourage people to profit from their patent by building their own businesses around their concept , whether through sourcing parts for the pump to sell, to service, or teach about the system. The possibilities are limitless. They have also included business plans and support for novice entrepreneurs each step along the way as they develop their business.
There is a catch. Potential users are responsible for procuring the components of the structure. The current pump system costs between 8 – $10,000 euros, but costs should plummet by a minimum of 60% once the online, do-it-yourself platform is launched and the webshop can begin serial production of the components.
The idea is to allow users to develop the platform for the lowest cost possible – the design allows for many materials to be used, so users can adjust the plans according to what is locally available. Additionally, Pumpmakers have built financing into their platform through microfinance opportunities, which is useful for co-operative village wells, as well as crowd-sourcing opportunities to get going.
Award Winning Innovation
While PM Pumpmakers GmBh provided the R&D, the development of the online platform was funded through a successful Indigogo campaign. Since 2012, the project has received acclaim and support from Ted X, Ashoka, T-Mobile and others, and has won a number of awards including the Social Impact Award in 2011. Pumpmakers have been piloting their initiative in the remote village of Ndzofuine near Chidenguele in Mozambique with clean drinking water since 2012. The pump is supplying the village’s 800 residents with 5,000 litres of water each day.
To date, the first series production for selected companies and users began in August 2015.
As of 5 August 2015, all animated videos in English, French, Dutch, Spanish and PT were completed, as were 95% of technical drawing for local production and installation videos. Platform programming was 85% complete and the completion of installation manuals and booklets in the covered languages were 80% complete. The full online launch of the platform is expected in November 2015.
Joining their social network will also connect users with suppliers, companies, press or NGOs, and will provide all participants with an opportunity to connect, to share best practices, to develop their businesses, create jobs and share information about the project and other opportunities for sustainable local development initiatives.
Check back in early 2016 for an update on the project and the impact it has made since it’s online launch!
Click here to listen to founder Dietmar Stuck describe his innovation. Click here for more details about Stuck’s social enterprise, and learn the science behind the NSP Pump. Follow Pumpmakers on Twitter here.