The US company Zero Mass Water designs Source hydropanels that employ sunlight and air to generate drinking water, and regional towns in Australia have been reaping the benefits.

Zero Mass Water founder and CEO Cody Friesen said that the concept behind this project was to devise the globe’s first disintermediated, infrastructure-absent aqua source which does not draw from electricity or a pipe input.

When creating the hydropanels, Friesen said the company pondered how to apply the tenets of renewable energy – drawing from regional resources and sunlight to produce necessities sustainably – to the generation of ecofriendly water. Within SOURCE hydropanels, essentially, is distilled, purified water.

Within these panels, the water is filtered through a mineral block which invests minerals like calcium and magnesium to lend the drink a soft, crisp texture.

Friesen said that the panel can be erected in 15 minutes; and in only a half hour’s time, it will generate consumable water.

He said that the panels are making it possible for water to be produced in a non-extractive process.

Friesen, who completed his PhD in materials science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has a background in the field of renewable energy. He wants to expand renewable energy beyond the concept of electricity, which he says consumes only 20 per cent of the global energy mix. The remaining 80 per cent is taken up by transportation and embedded energy as found in the goods we purchase, as well as the food and water we consume.

Friesen says that water holds in its streams an abundance of embedded energy, and that the link between energy and water is irrefutable—pointing to the application of desalination plants to drain salt from water and render it drinkable. It is the goal of his company to further the cause of separating traditional energy sources from water production.

Source Hydropanels are available in 34 nations that include Australia. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) gave Zero Mass Water $420,000 in funding for its initial hydropanel trial.

The company has installed panels in regions of Australia that include Murrurundi in New South Wales and Thulimbah, 15km north of Stanthorpe in Queensland, and at schools like the Cunnamulla State School in Queensland.

The company has collaborated with Indigenous communities like those established on Stradbroke Island – also called by the Indigenous moniker of Minjerribah. Zero Mass Water installed a selection of 30 panels at the Island’s community centre, which will produce more than 3000 litres of water monthly.

Friesen asserted that the Source panels aren’t simply a sustainable means of producing clean water, but are also a means to reduce plastic and preserve Indigenous land.

Minjerribah is a World Heritage Site, a preserved island off Brisbane – visitors to which buy bottled water during their trips, thus creating a plastics problem. Friesen believes that applying innovative new water technology to this issue is a way to use novel means to honour ancient peoples.

In 2019, Australian NBA basketball player Patty Mills collaborated with Zero Mass Water to donate panels to out of the way Indigenous communities. Mills’ charitable organisation, known as The Community Water Project, united with National Basketball Players Association and Australian Indigenous Basketball to deliver hydropanel arrays to six remote Australian cities.

When accepting the 2019 $US500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for invention, he promised to donate the funds to a Conservation International project that supplies clean drinking water to a Colombian community using Source Hyrdopanels.

And this is only the beginning. Ultimately, Friesen aims to invent the perfect water source—one ideal for every person and every place.