Contributed by Megan Ray Nichols
We’re not going to run out of solar energy anytime soon, and it doesn’t cost anything to harness it after installation of the solar cells and equipment needed to generate the electricity.
Generally, water pumps are used in rural or remote locations, where water needs to be extracted from a well. They can cause a few issues, particularly when running power to the operating site. Their installation and operation can be quite costly too.
Combining direct current (DC) pumps and a solar power system allows water pumps to become cost effective and self-sustaining. The solar system provides necessary energy, which in turn allows the DC water pumps to extract the water and push it through a dedicated pipe system.
Solar water pumps require no external power
The solar system provides energy to the DC pumps, so you can install both in just about any location. In a way, solar powered water pumps make wells more viable in places where they wouldn’t normally be possible.
Traditionally a windmill system provides running water to a remote location, but it’s expensive and inconvenient. With a solar water pumping system, there’s no need for an additional machine to power the pump.
Once the system is installed and ready to go, it can run indefinitely. It requires some easy maintenance. Optimum energy efficiency of solar panels require regular cleaning.
Solar water pumps are efficient
Thanks to advanced technology, solar powered water pumps are completely efficient. Modern solar pumps are much improved compared to systems of the past. They produce high amounts of energy, require little maintenance and can be scaled for commercial use. Altitude does not affect efficiency, so the mounting the panels close to the ground makes it the easier to clear off snow.
During cloudy weather, solar panels provide less energy, but they don’t stop producing completely. Even on a cloudy day, the solar panels produce enough energy to pump water. If your system isn’t producing enough energy, you can install another solar panel or two. Other low-light performance solutions exist as well.
Solar water pumps cost little
Aside from the initial installation cost, which can be admittedly high, operational costs are minimal because the sunlight costs nothing for the solar system to run the water pump. A battery system enables the pump to continue to operate after dark.
Retail residential electricity rates have risen at an average rate of about 4% over the last 10 years — that’s a lot of money you could be saving. The Energy Information Administration says residential electricity rates have increased nationally by a total of about 30% over the last 10 years.
Solar powered water pumps can run unattended, and potential issues that might arise are all fairly simple to address. Either the panels don’t generate enough power — because they’re broken or dirty — or the energy circuit is disrupted.
Also, the system can be mobilized if needed, which is ideal for properties with multiple water pumps.
Solar water pumps are easy to install
Professionals would likely install solar powered water pumps, but it’s possible to do it yourself. The power system is native, so there’s no need to run main power or extend a power source to remote locations.
For farmers with a lot of land, this feature can keep costs down significantly.
If you need to service it, it costs relatively little because the systems are simple.
Solar systems are easy to maintain
The most important maintenance task is to keep the solar panels—and the cells inside—clean. It allows the system to produce enough energy to run the pumps. Generally, cleaning includes removing dust, dirt, and grime from the panels using soap and water. You should clean them once a year or whenever they’re dirty.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, fixed operations and maintenance costs for solar powered water pump systems would only be about 0.5 to 1.0 percent of the initial installed cost.
Modern pump housings and connected mechanisms or pipes use stainless steel. There’s little need to worry about corrosion or sanitation. The steel can resist wear and tear and will last for quite a long time. Older aluminum pump housings would corrode after long contact with moisture.
The motors used in DC water pumps are often brushless, so you don’t have to worry about shutting down the pump, taking out the motor, and changing brushes. You can leave the motor as it is, and there’s no need to get your hands dirty. Plus, brushless DC motors tend to be more efficient than traditional motors.
Every five years or so, you should replace the pumping mechanisms, because they wear down over time. It costs a mere $20—not including labor–and it’s easy to do.
Home Owners and Farmers Can Benefit
On farms, solar powered pumps keep wells and irrigation functioning in order to maintain the land and crops. Currently, solar water pumps are being used in India to help farmers water their crops.
Solar powered pump systems could be ideal for individual homeowners, as well as larger residential and commercial properties. For example, an apartment complex that relies on well water could see much lower bills and operating costs by installing a solar powered pump d on the property.
Imagine the cost savings of a self-sustainable system not connected to the main power supply. What are you waiting for? It’s time to look into a solar powered water pump!
Megan Ray Nichols writes the blog Schooled by Science