Abstract Solar still desalination systems offer sustainable tools for fresh water production. However, their widespread application is often hindered by their relatively low production rates compared to other desalination methods. In this study, a simple amendment, in the form of a slowly-rotating hollow cylinder, was introduced within the solar still, significantly increasing the evaporative surface area. This new modified still was analyzed in terms of both operation and economic feasibility. The introduced cylinder resulted in a 200–300% increase in water output relative to a control, which did not include the cylinder. The resulting percent improvement far exceeds that obtained by other modifications. Unit production cost estimates varied between 6 and 60$/m3 depending on discount rates, productivity, service lifetime and initial capital costs. These projections are well within reported cost ranges for renewable-based technologies. In order to evaluate the system's feasibility in real market value, different scenarios that introduce carbon-trading schemes and environmental degradation costs for fuel-based desalination, were performed. Reported costs for fuel-based brackish water and seawater desalination were thus adjusted to include unaccounted-for costs related to environmental damage. This analysis yielded results that further justify the economic feasibility of the new modified solar still, particularly for seawater desalination.