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Special solar panels turn air into drinking water

Instead of producing electricity for the building, the panels produce drinking water by pulling moisture out of the air.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Some interesting science is happening on a rooftop in Northeast Portland.

Special solar panels are turning air into drinking water. Instead of producing electricity for the building, the panels produce drinking water by pulling moisture out of the air.

Here's how the panels work:

Air is drawn into the unit. The solar panel in the center produces heat. That heat creates a water vapor that is then turned into liquid, which is then purified and stored in a reservoir inside the unit.

Eventually, the water will be piped to a drinking fountain inside the building.

Each panel produces about 5 to 7 liters of water a day.

Credit: Keely Chalmers
Solar panel turns air into drinking water

They're made by Arizona based company Zero Mass Water, but are largely financed by Portland-based 3x5 Partners.

"We're generating water for about ten cents a liter over the life of the panel," said Tony Arnerich, managing partner of 3x5 Partners.

The company said the panels are currently being used to produce clean drinking water in more than 15 countries around the world.

They're on office buildings, schools, orphanages, even individual homes. An array starts at $4,000 with each additional panel costing $2,000.

The company says they recently installed an array on a home in Washington County.