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New buoy system harvests kinetic energy from waves to desalinate seawater

Some of the world’s wettest places are in dire need of fresh drinking water. Saltwater just doesn’t cut it and desalination systems are often too expensive — and energy dependent — for use by small island communities with limited resources.

But a new buoy may help change that. EcoH20 Innovations’ Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System (SAROS) is a wave-powered desalination system that harvests the perpetual energy of waves, turning saltwater into fresh water without electricity or fossil fuels.

SAROS is designed to serve a double function for island communities. By tapping into wave power, the buoy accesses one of the regions’s most abundant resources. And by cutting back on fossil fuels required to run most conventional desalination systems, SAROS helps mitigate the communities’s contribution to climate change, which threatens residents with rising sea levels.

EcoH20 Innovations launched an Indiegogo campaign last week with a goal of $25,000 to support the second iteration of its smaller, simpler desalination buoy. A single new buoy can produce some 3,500 gallons of potable water from saltwater each day, according to its creators, as clean water is pumped from the buoy to land through a hose.

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SAROS isn’t the first wave-powered desalination system to hit the sea. The Carnegie Wave Energy project began developing an underwater wave-energy generator called CETO. However, unlike SAROS, each CETO generates electricity that is then transferred to land for storage or use in a desalination machine.

Canadian desalination system Odyssée also took to the waves in 2014, though the project hasn’t reported any updates since then.

EcoH20 Innovations says it could adapt its buoy to generate electricity but is focused strictly on producing fresh water for now. Its current goal is to bring the price of desalinated water to about 3/5 of a penny per gallon — an ambitious aim compared to the 1.8 cents per gallon charged by the Virgin Islands’ utility.