Epiphany Solar Water Systems Brings Safe Water to Those in Need
Access to clean water is not much of a worry in the developed world. But almost a billion people—one in eight—are without safe water for drinking on a daily basis. In fact, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80 percent of all sickness and disease and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
For Epiphany Solar Water Systems, a Pittsburgh-area energy-technology company, the fight to improve this situation is real—and winnable. Epiphany believes its water purification technology can, quite literally, change the world.
Epiphany’s systems work on both saltwater and freshwater, using solar power as an energy source to make the systems sustainable. Epiphany’s mission is to provide simple, low-cost sustainable water purification to the developing and developed world.
Tom Joseph started Epiphany Solar Water Systems in 2006, using his background in engineering and concentrated solar power for electricity generation and transferring it to water systems. He developed a prototype that used concentrated solar power to purify water.
By 2008, the prototype was complete, and Joseph was in touch with Ben Franklin Technology Partners Innovation Works (BFTP/IW). BFTP/IW has invested $200,000 in Epiphany Solar Water Systems, in addition to business assistance provided.
“The support and the funding they gave us was invaluable,” says Joseph. “Our BFTP entrepreneur-in-residence gave us so much great advice, from helping with our business plan to any other imaginable aspect of starting up an organization.”
Epiphany’s water purification system is roughly the size and shape of a satellite dish. Sunlight hits the dish, and the focal point gets a very intense amount of heat—concentrated about 200 times. At that point, the light hits the bottom of an attached distillation unit and, in turn, heats water up to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit.
“BFTP sees the potential in your idea and shows you how to take it to the next level,” says Joseph. “This is invaluable when you’re starting out and always working to expand your new venture.”
Although distilling water to purify it is not a new method, Epiphany’s way of using concentrated solar power sets it apart from antiquated methods typically in use, such as boiling the water, condensing the vapors using natural gas as the heat source. In contrast, Epiphany’s method is a green solution, using only sunlight as the power. The solution is a comprehensive, inexpensive way to distill unclean water.
Epiphany develops the units, has the components manufactured and does final assembly themselves. They market to consumer and nonprofit organizations, selling units to nonprofits at a lower cost.
Partnering with a Nonprofit
Epiphany works with Project Eviive, an independent nonprofit with the purpose of raising awareness and funds, thus helping to get more of Epiphany’s units out into the field faster. Project Eviive exclusively uses Epiphany’s purification technology in its mission of bringing clean water to the world and spreading the word on solar as the solution.
Epiphany’s first major move will be to install their systems on college campuses as vending machines for clean drinking water to raise awareness and showcase the sustainability aspect and the technology.
Keynotes May, 2010
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