Enter Stage 2

Enter Stage 2
Our 2.5 meter prototype is taking shape with natural wood material in a modular form. It’s a voyage in space, water and time that is leading us to the first splash of water flowing down from the top onto the solar panel base. 

It has taken many months to reach this point and the entire team is enthusiastic about the possibilities to come. We will soon be ready for the sun to transform a work of art into a functioning structure that can harvest not only moisture from the air, but also innovative ideas on what can be done with materials within reach of our hands.

Look for more in the coming days on the final design of the prototype. The launch of art making the first drops of water could be seen this spring. Join us in presenting a unique design with a positive purpose!

A COP tale of optimism and ancient wisdom

A COP tale of optimism and ancient wisdom

At the COP 20 climate talks in Lima, water – water was everywhere but the world found it hard to think. Nearly everyone agreed on the urgency of water solutions, as supplies have begun to shrink.

SunGlacier Director of Communications, Matt Luna, attended the second week of the COP and talked with participants about water solutions and innovation. Representatives of global organizations reacted with surprise and interest to the relatively simple concept of solar-powered water as a step in adapting to a changing environment.

While negotiating parties in plenary sessions wrestled over single words in an agreement to limit emissions, groups holding side events were discussing adaptation, forest preservation, green growth and smart cities. Use of renewable energy such as solar was of course a key point to numerous discussions. It was remarked that wealthy financial institutions is where many solutions lie, as money is needed to fund green growth toward a leaner use of the planet.

SunGlacier was in the middle of this discussion, as it has been working for more than two years in testing to fine tune the best use of solar in harvesting the natural water source in the air. The engagement of the financial elite is certainly needed to fuel green solutions like an art project that can lead to real solutions for parched areas including off-grid communities.

Al Gore asserted himself repeatedly as an optimist for the planet’s future when speaking at a COP event briefing.  He only questioned how much human suffering would take place before solid solutions are effectively implemented to many of the planet’s current challenges. Bolivian President Evo Morales in a COP speech called on pillars of ancient wisdom of indigenous people to help us all survive into the future: 1) Don’t be a liar 2) Don’t be a thief 3) Don’t be lazy.

SunGlacier does not plunge into politics, but shares Mr. Gore’s optimism for the planet and Mr. Morales’s value of an honest, natural and active approach to climate adaptation: Build a simple solution to use the sun to harvest water from the air – and share it with people to drink.

Solar water generation in Peru

Solar water generation in Peru
Consider for a moment the country of Peru, host of the COP 20 this December, where effects of climate change are dramatic: melting glaciers, decreasing natural wetlands and inadequate water management systems. About 2 million people in the Lima area are without access to clean running water, and the number grows to 8 million in the country. 

The SunGlacier Technology team has calculated that Lima area conditions for example could be ideal for our Desert Cascades water production. With the 100m2 structure in test conditions typical of Lima, projected drinking-quality water amounts are at 32 liters per hour, or 260 liters in an 8-hour period. This is quite encouraging to say the least.

Our team has been strategizing with UNESCO-IHE, the Institute for Environmental Security, the European Space Agency and others to design a program of alternative water supply and resource management that can be a step toward solutions for vast changes in our planet’s water resources. The artistic design of Desert Cascades can also help create a broader project impact by using art as a universal means of communication.

The problem is evident, the focus is clear and we are moving forward. Desert Cascades has very real potential to help water scarcity in growing parts of the world. With more hard work and vital support, places like Lima could see an innovative step in  drinking water resources for communities in need.

An unbelievable marriage of art and technology

An unbelievable marriage of art and technology
Climate change is forcing new thought on innovations in facing drier conditions in vast areas of the globe. In the SunGlacier project, we have spent more than two years researching ways of capturing these changes for our advantage, with surprising results.

SunGlacier is an art project that pushes the borders of theory and present technology. A marriage of art and innovation has proved the value of “dare to dream about making the impossible, possible.” Yes, we can now build a glacier in a hot, dry desert and yes, we can generate drinking water from air.

It’s time for the next phase of building an autonomous water-generating structure that carries a zero carbon footprint. All technology developed in research has been compiled in an accessible report that provides answers to questions such as: how much drinking water can we produce out of thin air powered by only solar energy – and what does it cost?

The ultimate goal is to not only to build the art projects SunGlacier and Desert Cascades, but to see our technology applied where it can benefit people searching for an independent water source. This is art; this is climate adaptation; this is a new business concept that can make rain for investors willing to plunge into previously unexplored edges of technological applications.

Our starting point is the production of pure drinking water in dry situations for a relatively low cost. In going beyond the artistic impact of the project, we have developed promising applications for SunGlacier to be put into use in various situations.

Although SunGlacier was not initially designed as a commercial project, an investment structure now allows organizations to participate in supporting the widespread success of the project. The potential to draw positive attention to a business with an environmentally-friendly art project that makes usable water is no longer science fiction. 

The technology is real, just as the inspiration that can motivate broad sectors of industry to follow in applying innovative resource adaptation.

More information: Ap Verheggen at <apverheggen@gmail.com>

Sun + Air = Water

Sun + Air = Water
In wider patches of the world, communities are struggling to adapt to increasingly severe and long droughts that are forcing a search for sustainable systems of fresh water. Access to H2O is of course the very basis of survival, and there is also growing recognition of how scarcity of vital resources can drive the spread of social unrest, political instability and conflict in affected and neighboring areas

Project SunGlacier’s research and awareness of water’s place in nearly all levels of human security have led to the design of the autonomously functioning structure: “Desert Cascades.” This design that we’ve already previewed will create a cascade of fresh drinking water from humidity, driven purely by solar energy. And were still pushing boundaries by aiming to install this “oasis” in the extremes of a hot, arid desert.

Desert Cascades is a sculpture that can make a tangible contribution, through art, to adapting to rolling changes in the climate. Simply: It makes water from air, powered by the sun. 

A sea of adaptation solutions is around us, and it’s up to us to harness resources we already have. This week we started further design tests in our laboratory that simulates desert conditions. And think, what can we accomplish working together now and in 5-10 years when the efficiency of solar power has increased exponentially?

The Discovery Channel has taken interest in the project, and sent a crew to film our successful round of testing at the laboratory last week. Andras Szollosi-Nagy, Head of UNESCO-IHE, (in photo, right) was also at the site last Thursday and said, “This is a historical moment, and of great importance for the future of our planet.”

The project’s ultimate aim is to inspire broader, collective solutions, and it seems we’ve just reached a point of no return. The need for results from our efforts is growing. The technology is performing beyond predictions in laboratories. The public is responding enthusiastically to the positive core purpose of SunGlacier. And, our team’s resolve to make solar-powered water feels like a speeding train without brakes.

We’re not going to stop until we plunge straight off a cliff and into a sea of positive solutions!

Building a positive polar vortex

Building a positive polar vortex
by Ap Verheggen

How many of the millions who are now familiar with the term had heard of a polar vortex before last week? The sub-zero freeze in the United States feels like a flashback to the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow in which an eerily similar climate pattern brought on another ice age.

Is this swirling vortex of Arctic air over America so bizarre? Not really. As we’re enjoying a relatively warm winter so far here in Europe, a look out our window to the West reminds us that extreme climate events have passed the point of becoming the new norm, and are now a reality. Mother Nature seems to make her voice heard somewhere each month with a monstrous howl. It’s up to us to live under these new skies.

Working on SunGlacier is a chance to build 10% of inspiration that can lead to the 90% of perspiration that just may make some kind of positive difference in the lives of people in a forgotten corner of the planet – or in the growing urbanized part of the world. It’s important to stay positive and keep open minds for now and for the next generations. They will need solid shoulders to stand upon when searching for future solutions that just may be found in unexpected places.

Speaking of unexpected places, the Discovery Channel plans to come to the Netherlands later this month to film a segment on SunGlacier. More details will be made available soon.

Also, we previously posted about deadly tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest and the need for protective structures. Three new schools have opened in Missouri with protected rooms. Such an initiative is a simple idea in adaptation, but it requires a change in mindset and methods to be made possible.

Stay tuned, stay focused and most important: Stay Positive!

Photos from the polar vortex

Join SunGlacier on an inspiring ride

Join SunGlacier on an inspiring ride
Someone pulled the lever again on the climate slot machine. Two severe storms have hit North Europe in an alarming short several weeks with winds up to about 150 km/hour, one storm at an opportune moment of high tide. Many were looking back at the lessons learned about adapting to the unpredictability of nature back in 1953 when 1,800 people lost their lives in flooding in the Netherlands. Reinforced flood-protection measures followed soon after that disaster.

 Ap filmed himself on 5 December 2013

Nature will always be the stronger force. If there would have been more rain in the area when the latest storm tore through last Thursday, many may have experienced flooding at their doorsteps, even with barriers that have protected us from the water on the other side of the dikes for more than 50 years.

It’s in our survival DNA to preserve life – but relying on standard systems that have “worked so far” can have disastrous consequences. Approaches need to be as dynamic as humanly possible (and a bit beyond) to help man coexist with a more powerful nature. This is of course on a global scale: droughts are more severe and longer lasting, and super storm Haiyan made it clear that the climate slot machine is changing – and not necessarily in man’s favor. The house always wins?

So let’s just hit the pause button to allow time to find solutions that will better enable generations to come. But wait, that’s not an option. In fact, extreme weather events are becoming stronger and more frequent.

It’s right now that SunGlacier is working to create a functioning work of art aimed at inspiring a unified push for more innovative designs on adaptation. It takes a change of mindset. It takes human effort.  And it takes money.

SunGlacier has had an explosion of international press coverage lately (see a few article links below), and our team has been meeting with potential financial partners to discuss carrying this unique approach forward, but more support is needed. Like-minded parties are invited to join us in what promises to be a globally intriguing art project that hopes to make people stop and say “Look at that; we can and should do more.” But more what? That is exactly the point of our exploration: to inspire discovery of the what and the how.

Find out more about becoming a part of the SunGlacier innovation. Contact Ap Verheggen at apverheggen@gmail.com

Recent media coverage – selected links:
The Weather Channel  
La Repubblica
Discovery Brasil
TV program in Bulgaria

A flow of ideas…

From the inspiration and research of the SunGlacier project making ice in a desert, I’ve developed the idea of creating an actual working waterfall also in an extreme dry area. The Desert Cascades concept is an art project to be made from a solar panel-based cube that independently supplies itself with energy to catch water vapor and flow the resulting water over and out of the structure. The Cascades is still an idea in-progress, but with the increasing speed of solar technology, it could soon be growing – as is SunGlacier – closer to becoming a functioning reality.

artist impression by Ap Verheggen

Developments in technology are ever increasing in speed. What appears impossible at the present can quickly become a reality within a number of months or a few short years. However, I believe that we can expand the benefits of technology when we accelerate current thinking on how to use potential applications in the future. An art project like the Cascades can inspire people and science to look beyond known horizons and become a type of generator for new possibilities. Consider science-fiction films from the 1970s; many Star Wars era dreams are becoming everyday tools in one form or another.

For us it’s essential to explore outside of conventional technology to develop ideas like how much water we can get out of the air with only solar as power generator. In the SunGlacier project, we have searched for solutions to achieve maximum results because the nature of the project calls for extreme methods. Some answers have been found in nature, like how structures and processes have developed over thousands of years of evolution. Some of these answers can also be used to build Desert Cascades.
artist impression by Ap Verheggen
We’ve noticed a huge gap between theory and reality in testing our ideas, so naturally it has been impossible to make conclusions before empirical testing. Well, such scenarios simply create a need for more old-fashioned creativity in this modern research. I discovered in this process that the experts at our partner Cofely Refrigeration are artists in their own right. Interpretation of research outcomes often requires out-of-the-box thinking. The main conclusion of our research remains: Do it! It’s funny that we actually learned a lot about water while making ice, as a result of stretching borders to conquer larger extremes.
SunGlacier is in essence a very close concept cousin to Desert Cascades. From one project we learn a lot about the other project. Both are conceived with the purpose of demonstrating that we need to think in terms of solutions as man always has done – also in adapting to a changing climate. A core message is that if our living conditions change, we can also change our mind set try to shape these changes for our own benefit. For me it is clear that climate change = culture change. I am quite positive that we can generate, even now, an autonomously working waterfall in a desert, and I am confident that the results can somehow inspire new applications for the future. Believe the impossible. The art project ‘Desert Cascades’ is still in a concept phase, but it is too interesting to me to not build it.

It’s ironic that the big ball of fire in the sky that makes one feel thirsty can also power the creation of water over elegantly-sculpted cascades.

Searching for safe adaptation

An earlier post looked at the extreme tornadoes last May in Oklahoma, and how more storm shelters in homes, schools and businesses could save lives in this area. There’s now such an initiative from parents there who lost their children. Their goal is to ensure that storm shelters are installed in every school in the state.

This kind of movement is sensible in that it’s a very basic and realistic step that has the potential to protect children and adults from storms that have always been likely to come, and now seem to be growing in size and power. The Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore had no storm shelters, and seven children were killed by the F5 tornado there last May 20. There are storm warnings, there are construction capabilities – now there are parents pushing for the common resolve to cut through bureaucracy and financial challenges to adapt to nature with available means, and most likely save the lives of other children in the future.

Adaptation has throughout history required a departure from common notions and routines.  If governments are not providing adequate protection in some areas, it’s up to us to find ways to take care of ourselves. Creative thought can lead to solutions that hold promise of being effective, but people will have to adjust their mindset. Infrastructure and technology that may have offered protection for years might not be the most effective choice moving forward.

So it is up to all of us to continue a positive push to benefit our future lives. Innovation is often considered unusual  – at least until the masses embrace positive results from those who dared to try a different approach.

Living with Uncertain Nature

“Believe the unbelievable: we can find solutions” is the central theme of a SunGlacier TEDx live presentation in Amsterdam on June 12th.  The entire scope of the need to find climate solutions – and what is being done –  is inspiring and unsettling at the same time.

Climate change has reeled our planet in different directions throughout its existence, and many agree that present changes are contributing to weather extremes in the news.  Phillip Muller, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, wrote in a Washington Post editorial today that the Pacific country is in a state of disaster over a shortage of drinking water that has been caused by a prolonged unseasonable drought. Crops have been lost and drought-related diseases are on the rise. Muller stated, “Climate change has become the No. 1 threat to my country and our people.”

Moore, Oklahoma. (Jason Colston/American Red Cross)

It’s clear that conditions are changing, but are we actually experiencing more destructive weather?  Or is it just that denser populations over larger areas make bigger targets for extreme weather that is reported more frequently by the media? Spring tornadoes in the U.S. Plains states are not a new phenomenon, but storm chaser videos bring the twisters online and into our living rooms.

Scientists don’t all agree on what’s happening or why. SunGlacier’s purpose is not about answering fundamental questions of why the weather spins the way it does  or who’s to blame. The project is about inspiring belief in out-of-the-ordinary solutions that can help people adapt, survive and prosper.

A simple thought supporting climate change = culture changesurfaced recently on social media. There was such an outcry for U.S. gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook school shootings, but why aren’t more people calling for regulations requiring tornado shelters or building codes to save lives after the deadly Oklahoma tornado?  Maybe there will be some changes, but challenges in logistics, budgets and long-time planning methods make it difficult to implement quick solutions.  Innovative ideas such as Kevlar-protected rooms have potential if they can be made widely affordable through initiatives like government incentives. (It’s tempting to ponder if these rooms will be equipped with seat belts.) In any case, we can expand these types of responses to strengthening levies in flood-prone areas, finding alternative fresh-water sources, ensuring use of the best available weather warning systems and so on.

(UPDATE: Another massive tornado hit a suburb west of Oklahoma City just hours after this blog was posted, killing 18, including three storm chasers.  The F5 twister was the widest tornado ever recorded at 4.2 km, or 2.6 miles, across.)

Moore, Oklahoma. (Jason Colston/American Red Cross)

Science is of course not close to being able to prevent tornadoes, hurricanes and droughts. We can, however, take steps in adapting to conditions, while still investing in long-term solutions that at least contain hope of keeping current conditions form getting worse. Phillip Muller wrote, “The Republic of the Marshall Islands is accelerating its transition to low-carbon development, using solar power and exploring promising ocean-energy technologies. But our efforts will put only a tiny dent in this problem.”

SunGlacier aims to make ice in a hot, dry desert: an artwork that pushes the limits of technology and conventional thinking. We’ve already tested successfully in a closed setting, but there are uncertainties and new questions when building the structure in open air. The only way to find any answers to this project  and our planet   is through applied experience and creative plans to continue to adjust and adapt.  

Nature’s laws are so complex and unpredictable that we will never find all the answers why our planet’s climate conditions exist, but we still must respond with our best efforts.  Like the SunGlacier project, we only can think about succeeding when we understand that we have to cope with extremities.

And looking toward next month and the TEDx presentation, most people in the Netherlands probably won’t miss this month of May that’s about to go in the colder-than-normal weather records.

Birth of Urban Chameleons

Crawling on walls and attached in such a way that they seem stuck against the vertical surface  the first four epoxy-based sculptures of animals with human facial characteristics are now alive. Their color blends in with the urban surroundings to create a subtle but living presence that becomes clear after looking at them for a brief second.

Quiet white animals on white walls, they appear to crawl in various directions in search of their own living space. 

Non-symmetrical forms imply motion, while still frozen onto a vertical surface inside a house. Together like humans, they prefer not to be alone but function better in their small groups – crawling, searching.

The others of their species are now taking shape in my studio.  These new chameleon sculptures will be ready to find their place on the wall within the coming weeks.  And also like humans, this family of white animals is reaching the limits of space in their current residential environment; they plan to occupy a gallery or museum as soon as they find their way there.

All are welcome to keep up with this new series as they grow from inspiration, to materials, to construction, to a future exhibition. I hope they crawl into imaginations, and intrigue others the way that they have me.

Follow These Kids to World Water Day

The United Nations World Water Day is coming up this Friday, March 22, and children at schools in The Hague have already started carrying their weight in support of the event, literally, with the Walking for Water fundraiser.  

Students from years 5 and 6 at the International School of The Hague (ISH) sought sponsors and then walked a six-kilometer trek through the nearby coastal dunes. They each carried six heavy liters of bottled water in a blue backpack as they raised money to benefit a clean-water program in Bangladesh.

Clean running water may be taken for granted when living in countries like the Netherlands, so this event was organized together with the Max Foundation to help students experience what it’s like to carry water supplies home in countries without enough adequate water facilities.  “It was tiring and also felt good to do this, but it was a bit sad that some people need to do this every day,” said Adam, 10, student at the ISH. 

Adam, center, with his ISH class
The Walking for Water event began in 2003, and proceeds from the ISH this year will go to help build a sanitation complex for safe drinking water and clean toilet facilities for children and families in Bangladesh. Classes at the school alone raised €5,000, and then the total rose to €18,000 after matching contributions from the government and the Delftland Water Board.

SunGlacier Ambassador to Build Water Interest

By Matt Luna, SunGlacier

An artist can find inspiration in places where science is afraid to go, just as the freshness of young people’s approach to solving environmental problems can lead to solutions that require more courage to even consider. A program in the Netherlands is targeting young mainly technical professionals – and using an artist – to increase interest in water sector careers and help ensure enough human resources to combat future dilemmas in world water issues.

The National Water Traineeship brings together new university graduates working for government agencies and private organizations in the water sector, and provides them with opportunities over the two-year course to work with other newcomers in their field. The trainees build leadership and project management skills as they work across organizations to find solutions to water issues in the country and around the world.

One recent joint project aimed to find a way to increase the flow of usable water in Senegal. The trainee team designed a proposal to construct polders regulating water flow, and then developed communications for the local population to learn how to use the system. Exercises like this can provide practical experience, build professional networks, and ultimately contribute to the overall future success of organizations of the water sector. With a projected shortage of 20,000 professionals working in the water sector by 2020, it’s easy to see the importance of this program.

Enter the artist. 
Ap Verheggen accepted an invitation this week to become an ambassador for the traineeship program. “We asked Ap to become an ambassador because he has a positive, different way of looking for solutions to problems, as he has demonstrated with the creation of his SunGlacier project,” said Naomi Timmer, Deputy Project Leader for the traineeship. As a program ambassador, Ap will spend time with the young members to help open their minds to think of innovative approaches that can be refined through research and then implemented for real-world tests. “We want the trainees to be able to dream to change the world – to be able to believe in the unbelievable – in finding real solutions to help people,” Naomi said.

 “It’s an honor to be asked to become an ambassador for such a bright initiative as this water traineeship,” said Ap, “The program is already successful, and after seeing the people involved who are coming from senior advising positions in the government and other organizations, it’s convincing that the support is there.” Ap also likes the idea of even more young people combining their ideas and energy. “They are working on their projects, and I will try to inspire them by telling them how I deal with my projects – not only out of the box, but out of this world.” said Ap.

Naomi also emphasized Ap’s potential of attracting more interest to the water-sector technical field: “Ap is a great communicator and can get across a message in unique ways to draw more attention to the purpose. He’s a great person to have on the team.”

Photo from left: Raimond Hafkenscheid (advisor), Ap Verheggen (ambassador), Naomi Timmer (deputy project leader), Gerard Doornbos (ambassador), Helen van Zundert (project leader), Sven Asijee (ambassador) Jaap Feil (director) Not shown in photo: Sybe Schaap (ambassador)

Visit www.nationaalwatertraineeship.nl to learn more about the program.