On a small Netherlands farm, startup company Dutch Rainmaker will soon flip the switch on a windmill that wrings water straight from the air. About ten stories tall, the innovative windmill is essentially an oversized, leaky air conditioner. Instead of driving a generator to produce electricity, the windmill drives a heat pump that pulls water vapor from the air and condenses it. The apparatus then collects that water for future use, leading the company’s founders to believe their windmill could help overcome the world’s shrinking—and increasingly polluted—water supplies.
Along Africa’s hot, humid coast-lines, company engineer Hans Van der Vliet says, the machine could supply 7,500 liters of water a day—enough to quench the thirst of 3,000 people. The windmill would also work in drier climates, although Van der Vliet says the air-to-water yield would drop by as much as 20 percent.
One drawback is the price tag—right now, a steep 200,000 euros. But the company aims to halve that number as they scale up production. And to farmers and others whose livelihoods depend on water, a few precious drops could justify the cost. ❧