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This pastor's 'crusade' for clean water in his community is 'born out of thin air' — thanks to a fascinating tool

"We've needed it for a long time."

hydropanels on a church roof

Photo Credit: iStock

Solar hydropanels look a lot like solar energy panels, but they have a hidden talent: They use the power of the sun to take moisture out of the air and store it as water. Recently, one South Carolina pastor discovered just how valuable that feature was in his community.

Leo Woodberry leads the Kingdom Living Temple in Florence, South Carolina. Florence has long had an unreliable water system, leading to frequent boil-water advisories to ensure residents' safety. The town even had to issue such an advisory on Christmas Day last year following a water main break. Because of these difficulties, Woodberry launched what NBC News has called a "crusade" for clean water — one born "out of thin air."

Woodberry's fix? Hydropanels. By saving and fundraising, the pastor was able to spend $20,000 on four hydropanels, all of which he has since placed around his church. The hydropanels constantly work to collect water, which is then mineralized, filtered, and sent to various homes and businesses. According to NBC, Woodberry calls it "water from the heavens."

Florence resident Carolyn McMillan agreed, telling the outlet: "We need it. We've needed it for a long time."

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), Florence's water is currently "in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards," but that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe. The EWG has found 24 different contaminants in Florence's water, 11 of which exceed the group's health guidelines. 

With enough infrastructure, solar hydropanels could provide clean water to Florence and beyond. Cody Friesen, CEO of hydropanel company Source Global, told NBC that this idea, "starting small to go big," is his company's goal. 

"Eventually," he added, "we want to bring the hydropanels to the entire community."

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