Dutch Surge Support (DSS water) provides emergency relief for water-related disasters. To do so, they deploy experts like Peter van Zwol and Frank Hoogers. They both work for Independent Energy, a company that provides off-grid solar energy. In Gaza and Syria, they support UNICEF remotely in the design of solar powered systems to power water supply systems. “Our work is extremely important”, says Peter. “We make the difference for people between having water and having no water.”
Plans often overlook the importance of solar power for water supply systems. “Often, people in the water business do not think of solar energy to power their water pumps. It is a pity”, says Frank. “Solar energy is by far the cheapest and most sustainable solution. It is a bit of an investment, but it pays for itself in 3 to 4 years. Many countries in conflict situations, such as Gaza and Syria, do not have access to other fuels such as diesel to power their water pumps. The sun is a great alternative.”
Involve solar power in an early stage
Both experts find it crucial to think of solar at an early stage of a water project. “The later you involve solar panels, the more expensive and difficult it becomes to add them”, says Peter. The work they do in Gaza and Syria differs from their usual activities. “We normally install, build, and sell the hardware for solar power systems. In this case, we advise. Other companies build the system.”
It is a challenge in both conflict zones to get the correct information. “Before we start designing a system, we need to know how much energy people use. Most people do not know this. Working remotely makes it hard for us to find out”, says Peter. There is also the issue of sending equipment of the solar system to countries with conflicts. “Big solar batteries might be regarded as military equipment, which is very difficult to get past the borders”, adds Frank.
Opportunities for the future
Peter and Frank hope to be more involved in the water business in the future. “We see so many opportunities to make access to water cheaper, more reliable and more sustainable with solar power. We hope that the water business starts seeing our value too.” Peter hopes the Netherlands Enterprise Agency will connect more water and energy companies in these projects. “There is so much we can do together. It is a unique partnership between the government, a private company, and a non-profit organisation to make the world a little better.”