What is solar irrigation?

What is solar irrigation?

Solar irrigation uses the sun’s energy to power a pump which supplies water to crops to help growth.

Why is irrigation important?

To grow the highest quality crops in the most efficient way they must have the right amount of water at the right time. Too little or too much water will lead to crops wilting, soil erosion and poor nutrient uptake of the plants. Irrigation is the controlled application of water to respond to crop needs.

Getting water to the field

Anyone who has lifted water up from a well or river and carried it any distance will know of the energy this takes. It is therefore not surprising that humans have looked for ways to reduce the workload and increase the efficiency of lifting water over the years. The first recorded mechanism for lifting water was in the Egyptian times (over 4000 years ago)!

More recently, pumps requiring either manual labour (treadle pumps) or fuel (petrol, diesel or electricity) have led the way in moving water for irrigation. These water pumps are designed to move more water to the field with less effort for the farmer. They have largely succeeded in this; however, they are still relatively demanding. They require a lot of maintenance, a regular supply of fuel (either human energy or fossil fuel) and someone to watch over them as they operate.

“My previous treadle pump was much more labour intensive and it slows down the pace at which you can work. But as you use the solar pump, once you’ve connected it, it will just run and irrigate your farm while you concentrate on other things, it is easier. “

Matthew – Futurepump customer

Bringing solar energy into the mix

In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in a year!

But it’s only in the last decade, with the price of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels plummeting, that the sun as a source of energy for running water pumps has been available to small-scale farmers. This is a huge opportunity for rural off-grid farms to expand crop production and survive the dry season in an environmentally friendly way.

For a Futurepump solar pump, the process of solar energy to water pumped is simple. The sun strikes the solar panel which converts solar energy into electrical energy. This electrical energy turns a motor and a flywheel which operates the piston which sucks water up and pushes water out. The simplicity of this system means fewer moving parts and less maintenance which results in less downtime and expense for the farmer.

Line diagram of Futurepump solar pump showing sun hitting the solar panel and turning the flywheel to pump water

What’s more, solar energy is free and in abundance during the dry season when crops require the most irrigation water. Farmers who harness this free energy efficiently by pumping water to the fields and into elevated tanks during the day while the sun is the strongest can reap huge benefits.

Accessing solar irrigation pumps

There are several different solar pumps available on the market. All come with different specifications and are suitable for different farm sizes and distance to water. Futurepump manufacturer a surface pump which has a total lift of 15 m and is suitable for irrigating up to two acres of land. If you are interested in finding out more and purchasing a pump, take a look at our list of distribution countries.