The Winddrinker

The Winddrinker

Berbera, SomaliaNetherlands
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We make clean drinking water affordable for the poor. The Winddrinker turns salt water into clean drinking water utilizing solely wind energy. It is a promising solution to solve water problems in dry coastal areas of developing countries.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The World’s water crisis is one of the major challenges of our time. It is strongly linked to and negatively impacted by climate change, rapid population growth, soaring energy prices and the global financial crisis. Today, 884 million people are still using unsafe sources of drinking water. This means that the impact of diarrheal diseases inflicted on children who drink unsafe water is larger than the impact of HIV, Aids, Malaria and tuberculosis combined. The Winddrinker Holding commercializes a wind driven desalination technology developed by the Delft University of Technology: the Winddrinker. With this elegant technology, anyone, and anywhere that has the elements of wind and salt water, can now readily access cheap and affordable water.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We make clean drinking water affordable for the poor. The Winddrinker turns salt water into clean drinking water utilizing solely wind energy. It is a promising solution to solve water problems in dry coastal areas of developing countries. With this elegant technology, anyone, and anywhere that has the elements of wind and salt water, can now readily access cheap and affordable water. Winddrinker’s global strategy is to bring this technology on the market in developing countries through local entrepreneurs. Local entrepreneurs set-up franchise businesses following our unique implementation triangle which equips them with the innovation, education to operate the windmill, and investment in their Winddrinker business. Our first target market will be the coastal areas of East Africa. People in these areas can maximally benefit from this technology because of an ‘optimal’ combination of factors such as extreme drought, salt water and sufficient wind speeds.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Climate change, rapid demographic growth, food shortage, soaring energy prices and the financial crisis are the major global challenges the world is currently facing. Especially people in development countries suffer. These major challenges are strongly interrelated. One particular factor that is related to all challenges above is the shortage of fresh water. The scale, cost and energy source of the Winddrinker make this system extremely suitable for small and medium sized cities as well as less densely populated rural areas. It will not be vulnerable to soaring energy prices since it is driven by wind energy and it holds the potential to receive carbon credits as an additional source of income. It is thé promising solution to the water problem in dry coastal areas of developing countries. Until now, no economical comparable system exists. It is ideal for off the grid locations where water scarcity impacts health, economic development and livelihoods. In our prototype location - Berbera, Somaliland , the prototype is functional and partnered with a local water provider Malao Water. Water generated can either be sold in bulk or bottled in large jerry cans, and then sold. The generation of the fresh water is the primary activity followed secondly by distribution which can be customized, based on demand to either a primary distribution, subscription method, or having the local population come to the place of generation. There are two major market segments we will target - local entrepreneurs and local aid organizations.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Cheaper than competitive reverse osmosis systems, easier to maintain, and producing more fresh water than competing systems, the design costs $68,000 (excluding transport and installation) and produces 25,000 liters a day. As the pilot in Berbera demonstrates, local entrepreneurs can sell the water in 10 liter bottled jerry cans for $.50 each and in bulk for $3.85/m3. Many examples in the past have shown that just dumping’ innovations in developing countries will not result in a solution that will be sustained in the long-term. We believe that this technology will be successful when we utilize local entrepreneurial talent. Therefore we have developed an implementation triangle comprised of education, innovation, and investment.

Founding Story

Windddrinker's founders are former masters level engineering and business students. We come from economic development backgrounds. Our founder, Sjoerd Dijkstra, currently works for the Global Alliance for International Nutrition (GAIN). As a result of these factors, we are driven to create new, elegant, scalable, and needed strategies which have multiple benefits of improving public health, stimulating economic development, creating jobs, and leapfrogging old concepts for doing things. Our combined passion for devising new leapfrog solutions met its moment on doing when Sjoerd developed a relationship with Dr. Bas Heijman, professor at Delft University. The creator of the Winddrinker system, Sjoerd convinced Dr. Heijman that he could build and demonstrate the feasibility for such a technology in a place of need - Somaliland. The result is the first operating Winddrinker.
About You
About You
First Name


Tell us about yourself/your team.

The Winddrinker is comprised of dedicated and entrepreneurial individuals who are committed to out-of-the-box thinking and global solutions which are affordable, scalable, and needed by all humans. We make clean drinking water affordable for the poor. The Winddrinker turns salt water into clean drinking water utilizing solely wind energy. It is a promising solution to solve water problems in dry coastal areas of developing countries.

What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?

An intrapreneur is someone who can take ideas that already exist, and make them better, more real, and actionable. I, and the Winddrinker team are intrapraneurial because we took an idea which existed - wind power desalination, and built a prototype which generates more water, with a simpler design, and is cheaper to assemble than other models. We have built a prototype and set it up in Somaliland and it works.

About Your Organization
Company Country
Primary country where this project is creating social impact

, AW, Berbera

Additional countries or regions


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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?

The Winddrinker is cheaper to assemble, simplier in design, and generates more fresh water than other wind powered desalination units available. Additionally, each Winddrinker is built to optimize local conditions of wind availability and water salinity through a software model. In short, Winddrinker creates water, and the economic certainty, health benefits, and humanity associated with this human right.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

The impact of our solution to date has been promising. It generates water and has the potential to be commercialized through our partnership with Malao Water. In Berbera, Somaliland, water scarcity is a reality faced by the local population. The Windrinker confronts this scarcity issue and changes the reality but creating new fresh water supply.

What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?

The Winddrinker hopes to within 3 years to have built a total of 9 Winddrinker systems - 5 generating only fresh water and 4 also bottling the water in jerry cans. The result of 20 Winddrinkers working at full capacity will be 25m3 per day per Winddrinker - enough to serve 100,000 people. The Somaliland region has the demand for 100 Winddrinkers.

The impact will be that in 5 years we serve 216.000 customers, supplying them clean and affordable drinking water; this number will grow to over a million customers in 10 years. In addition we save 2,825Mt of CO2 in 5 years and 15,000Mt on an annually basis. This all will create 2500 Jobs directly in 10 years.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The largest barriers thus far have been those associated with cost and assembly. Clearly, supplying the parts to build a Winddrinker can be a barrier in places like Somaliland where parts are in short supply, must be ordered, and transported via inconsistent infrastructure.

A second barrier has been the learning through failing process of maintaining the Winddrinker. Two windblades were broken at one point, which ceased operation. New parts had to be ordered. Thus the design, while completed, continues to be tweaked.

The last challenge has been that of fighting the perception that the Winddrinker is an outsider technology which is being dumped, and thus cannot succeed. The Somalilanders readily adoption and self maintenance of the system, proves this is not the case at all.

What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?

The benefit that the Winddrinker team brings is experience in engineering, finance, business, economic development in Africa, and drive- perhaps first and foremost. Through the Winddrinker's franchising model, in short order the financial model will become one that is driven by locallized pockets of growth, and funding stemming from local entrepreneurs, Aid groups, diaspora pools, and even potentially crowd-funding in some cases.

How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?

All of Winddrinker's primary actors hold full-time jobs elsewhere due to current lack of funding. Funding would propel full-time involvement. However, we utilize our know-how to raise funds, attract investors, travel on-site when needed for repairs, etc. In short, we make it work until we have the funds to do the work full-time.

Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.

Winddrinker anticipates a breakeven point being reached by year 5, when sales outpace installation costs. The achieve our ambitious roll out plan which creates the largest amount of fresh water, Winddrinker will need combinations of grants and equity investments - totaling $2million USD in total financing sought, over the course of the the first 5 years. The projected IRR on this investment will be 34%.

Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.

The Winddrinker's key partners thus far who have provided know-how, financing, and technical assistance. Technical partners have been have been Delft University, Daryeel Foundation, Hatenboer, Financial assistance has been provided by TedX Amsterdam, Hivos, and Aqua for All/AKVO.

What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?

The major barriers, as identified earlier, are the initial challenges of maintenance, fundraising, and continuing to push hard after the team's goals. There have been setbacks in repairs being needed, and personal ones as well in team members attaining new jobs and starting families. These are all part of the ongoing challenge associated with making Winddrinker a reality.