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!

The first SunGlacier Sculpture


The idea of the first SunGlacier sculpture is to build a water drop-inspired structure, placed on a base of solar panels which generate the power needed to produce water out of air. The water will be released from the top of the sculpture and then drip down onto the solar panels.

To investigate the mechanics of a splash, we recorded fluids dropping on a black surface.




To “catch” the shape concept into a state closer to reality, we built a prototype with LEGOs that forms the basis of the design. Did anyone ever say that creating art couldn’t also be fun?

In two weeks we’ll start copying the LEGO cubes in real wooden cubes: the building of the final design. We already tested the water production of our condensor, and beginning 2016 we start testing the solar installation. This is a voyage of discovery in itself.

The positive potential of this project and the other solutions it could inspire became up close and personal again when I traveled to India earlier this month and witnessed the effects of a drought. The province of Gujarat produces a lot of food for the 1.2 billion people of India, but green fields are changing more and more into deserts. This year the south of India was drenched in rain while in the more northern regions, the monsoon only lasted a couple of days – demonstrating increasingly unstable climate impacts.

Except for desalination that can relieve a bit of the drought pressure in coastal regions, there are still no real alternatives for the regions more inland. Water reservoirs and rivers are drying up as well, while the demand for water was never as large as nowadays.

With Art Project SunGlacier we aim to show people around the world the possibilities of harvesting water out of the air. In our case off-grid, only using solar energy is what makes it more unique and promising. This is ultimately a work of art that hopefully can contribute to new ideas and visions to relieve future water shortages.

Water solutions in ancient times

To support the Wetskills initiative, I visited last week the rapidly growing mega-city Ahmedabad, West India (7.2 million inhabitants) and visited the Adalaj Stepwall
When the city was founded, the climate was arid as nowadays, so people decided to build water storages underground to collect rain water during seasonal monsoons. Dependent on which period, people had to climb more or less stairs to reach the water. In wet periods the whole building, all floors, were filled with water. My walk down was an Indiana Jones experience!
Besides a miracle of contruction, all walls and columns are decorated with beautiful ornaments. Art and Engineering, hand in hand.
A continued dry spell in the current monsoon season has driven Gujarat to the brink of drought, while the capital Ahmedabad grows yearly with 350.000 people. 
People in Gujarat have to design new stairs to cope with their increasing water demand – same like they did in ancient times.

The SunGlacier V01 Protoype – we started!

The SunGlacier V01 Protoype – we started!

This is it! This week we have started building a unique Art Project with potential applications for off-grid water resources in a changing climate. The SunGlacier project aims to offer solutions built within an intriguing design as it inspires more creative innovations for adaptation.

Since the start of the SunGlacier project I have been surrounded by a great team of friends who have given their time, effort and support, with a belief in building this prototype. Without their enthusiasm and determination to continue, the project may have stopped a long time ago.

Although additional financial support for this leap into a hydro-artistic future is certainly welcome, it’s about much more than money. The SunGlacier prototype is taking off with its own financial resources. It’s about our commitment to being the first to offer real solar-powered water production that can be optimized and put into use, beginning with an artistic presentation to grab public attention.

The studio where we are testing the components and building the SunGlacier version V01 is located in The Hague, the Netherlands. In the V01 we are using off-the-shelf technology to demonstrate that this laboratory-tested concept works. Later versions will feature custom technology, and the SunGlacier team is looking forward to how this first step will provide new insights and methods on how to maximize the water-production system.

Keep a check on this blog and the SunGlacier Facebook page during the building phase of the project (www.facebook.com/sunglacier). When it is complete, we hope for the working SunGlacier prototype sculpture to be invited for a trip around the world. A road show like this can increase engagement of others in our project and in other solutions for man living on a changing planet. Global media has already been reporting on our designs/concepts and we are looking out for more positive publicity as the prototype becomes a reality before the end of 2015.

Stay tuned; stay positive!

The SunGlacier Team

Project Management: Ap Verheggen, Frank van der Heijden,
Jan Alkemade, Matt Luna
Ralph The, Marcel in ’t Veen, Sander van Gent, Terry Cutts, Petra Reulings
Film and Photography: Taco Zwaanswijk, Svebor Kranjc. Boudewijn Knuistingh Neven (BKN), Davina Lamberts (BKN), Hessel Waalewijn

Let’s start plan B

Let’s start plan B

We began project SunGlacier with the intention of sending a positive and optimistic signal to all in the climate debate. It has since evolved into a project focused on ways to apply climate changes for our own benefit.

If temperatures rise, the air contains more water. For instance: A dry and hot desert can contain up to 5 times more water in the air compared to after a spring rain in NYC. Normally, higher temperatures also mean more sunshine. So, why not focus on harvesting water out of the air, powered only by renewable solar energy? In this way drinking water and water for agriculture become available in most dry parts of the planet.

SunGlacier has devised a way to grow a tree in the desert, only using sunshine – as our engineering team proved with tests in a laboratory which simulated extreme desert conditions. And wait, this was only the very beginning! During the last 5 years we didn’t relax in hopes that somebody would help us to get our solution on track, but instead we worked constantly to maximize, improve and surpass initial outcomes. We are now working with a water machine concept that is inexpensive, simple to produce and low maintenance.

The SunGlacier team and I are proud to announce this promising success, but we are still in the process of refining the physical principles of this new idea. Sometimes, for myself it is actually a greater miracle that my team is still working so tirelessly – along with other commitments – to contribute to a solution for an urgent problem. This could be a contribution to the prosperity of the next generations of people like all of us.

Mr. Ban Ki Moon taught us: “There is no Plan B, because we do not have a Planet B,” which sounds like the battle is already lost. I have learned from experience with several governments and international organisations including the UN, that support for an initiative like ours, a solution, is nearly impossible to acquire because of the absence of an attached economic model. Our “business” is in fact bringing creative innovation to produce the one most critical resource: water.

I only could find one reason for inaction by potential supporting governments/organizations: A renewable energy water project somehow doesn’t fit in common visions of “plan A.”
Much has changed since we started SunGlacier in 2010 when there was already widespread discussion of global warming and climate change. The areas with drought are now spreading with unprecedented speed, climate extremes are smashing record after record everywhere…also in world leaders’ own backyards. In some areas the military has been mobilized to control of water-crisis situations. Food and water shortages are growing, and sparking local water-related conflicts that quickly spread across borders to topple fragile governments.
I watched a documentary last week about water shortages, when the man on screen looked in the camera and said: “Who will help us? Nobody cares.”
That is the reason why we continue to work to get Plan B on track.

They simply forgot that they live in a desert

They simply forgot that they live in a desert

My journey through California.
By Ap Verheggen

The sky was clear when we flew in to Los Angeles. Even from my bird’s eye perspective, the dimension of the deserts that we crossed overwhelmed me. I asked myself how somebody could survive in this harsh landscape. But when the plane descended on its path to LAX, the landscape turned suddenly from desert into a web of streets, buildings, gardens and deep blue spots: swimming pools.

Later in a bar (every visitor in a bar or restaurant in California is offered a huge glass of water, filled with ice, as a welcome gesture) we talked with a friend, who lives in a prestigious neighbourhood in the hills of LA about the water crises.

He told us that his area has plans to recycle wastewater into a kind of grey water that could be used by the households, as a measure of relief for the overstressed water supply to his neighbourhood. It sounded like an ambitious plan, but even he questioned how many neighbours would stay if they have to use their own sewage…. “I’m not sure how many of my neighbours would agree to drink their pee,” he told us.

Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California are mostly fed by water that comes from Lake Mead, where the water from the mighty Colorado River bounces against the famous Hoover Dam. Driving to Lake Mead from LA, the landscape changes from green into desert in a matter of seconds. Beautiful!
After a couple of hours we arrived in Las Vegas. We entered our 35 dollar-a-night room and noticed that the tap in the shower was leaking like a river. Luckily for us there was not drip-drip kind of leak (that would have kept us awake). During our stay of two nights the hotel did not bother to fix it, which can only mean that repairing a simple leak is still more expensive then the leaking itself. Potable water in Las Vegas must be free, otherwise for sure it would be fixed in a day, like everywhere else.

Arriving at the Lake Mead Park, we started our investigation at the visitors centre. The lady behind the desk showed us on a map of what remained of Lake Mead. She told us that only 36 percent of the water still remained in the reservoir, because of the drought. More worryingly, she told us that Lake Mead would never be full again. The demand for water is simply more than the supply. When the water inlets that lead to pipes dry up,  they simply dig a new inlet to buy a bit of time. It’s a critical situation that we certainly didn’t expect.

Standing on the mighty Hoover Dam and looking down to the water gives rise conflicting impressions: A grey line on the rocks marks how high the water once reached, but the amount of water still there seems impressive, especially seen from a bird’s eye view.

We followed a road that promised to lead us to the lake, away from the dam and into the valley. At one point the gravel trail changed into smooth concrete and then back again. We continued to drive for another kilometre to arrive at shore of Lake Mead. Only then did we really appreciate how much lower the current water level is from that grey line that indicated the old “normal” surface level: From where we stood, a car parked above us by the rocks close to that line had the dimensions of a housefly. We realized the concrete patch in the road, way above, was once a boat launch. Now we could also explain the ladders high up against the rocks: they were ladders that people used to climb out of the water. It was like looking at the old Lake Mead from the fish’s eye view.

Continuing our tour, we found a sign – in the middle of the desert — that explained the Vegas Wash –Wetlands-. A decade ago the wetlands would have started just by the sign, but of course, we couldn’t find water at all.

The real shock came when we left the park and after just a few kilometres and some curves, we saw a huge green golf course, kept lush by sprinklers. Bizarrely, there were no golfers to be found – the desert heat was too much for them. We actually stopped the car to take in this strange scene – certainly it ranks among the weirdest things I had ever seen.

On our way back to LA I talked with a teacher who lives in Las Vegas and asked her about the water situation. She told me that she was concerned about the quality of the drinking water because she believed that pollutants sink to the bottom of the lake and she was afraid that soon the government would not be able to guarantee the quality of the water anymore. It was a worry that she came up with herself, but it helped her make the decision to leave and sell her house before others come up with the same idea and her property was worthless.

Arriving in LA, we were welcomed by again sprinkler installations, whose purpose was to water public grass next to the highway. The City of Angels appeared changed, because I was now experiencing it from my new fish eye perspective. The amount of water that is used by an average Californian household is only a small drop compared to what agriculture and industry use. People know this, and the virtual circle of no escape is created.
California is famous for its sustainability and for being the hub of the globe’s most innovative companies, it seems to have lost its perspective when it comes to own water. Even now, as the minute hand is inching toward midnight, the solutions generally proposed are founded on the idea of conservation and mitigation – which while important comes too late given the State’s state of affairs.
Instead of waiting for rain, we should all invest in revolutionary ideas and out-of-box thinking to help us raise water levels. There is always a solution, it just needs investments and time, and that’s what is also drying up. California is touching the tipping point.

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.