What Are Solar Pumps & How They Work?

What happens when you live in a developing country and need water to irrigate your crops, but you don’t have access to the energy required to reach it? You can’t simply flip a switch that’s connected to a power grid. This is when harnessing the sun’s energy for use as solar power can be life-changing.

Accessible, clean water is necessary for more than drinking. World Bank reports that over 70% of fresh water is used for agriculture in most regions of the world. That percentage increases to 80-90% of water consumed for areas in developing countries.

Additionally, over 60% of the world’s population depends on agriculture for survival, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). What does all this mean if it doesn’t rain and there is no dependable irrigation system? It means that crops fail, and people suffer.

Fortunately, there is a solution that improves food security, increases community wellness, and reduces poverty: solar-powered water pumps.

In this article, we’ll discuss what are solar pumps, how solar-powered water pumps work and their benefits. Let’s start with how they work.

Essentially, solar-powered water pumps work by converting the sun’s rays (photons) to electricity that will operate the water pump. It uses solar panels to collect the photons (units of light) from sunlight, producing the direct current (DC) that provides the energy for the motor to pump water out from its source. An inverter is used if the pump motor needs alternating current (AC) rather than DC.

Solar-powered water pump system components include:

Solar panels
Also called the solar photovoltaic (PV) system, solar panels take the sun’s photons and convert them into electricity in three basic steps.

Solar cells within solar panels absorb photons from the sun and convert them into DC electricity. An inverter converts DC electricity to AC (alternating current) electricity. This electricity is used to operate the water pump.

Water pump motor
The water pump motor takes water from any available water source, including from underground or another water source, that can be used for irrigation, household, or other purposes.

Water pumps run on AC electrical current, so the inverter converts the electricity from the original DC to usable AC.

Pipes will transport water from the original source to wherever it needs to go; a purification system, a holding tank, etc.

Water tank
The water pumping system will often include a water tank to store water that may be used when sunshine isn’t available.

Pump controllers
The controllers regulate the water pump and allow it to be turned on and off. They can increase the life of the water pump by protecting it from electrical irregularities or motor damage if it keeps running when a water source runs dry. Controllers also maximize water delivery.

Now that you know how solar-powered pumps work let’s examine their benefits.

Solar-powered water pumps have many benefits. They are:

Economical to operate
The cost of PV (photovoltaic) panels has dropped significantly, bringing down the initial set-up cost from years ago. Operating expenses are lower than other systems because the sun rather than fuel provides the energy. The long-term savings of fuel cost overshadows the initial investment needed to set up the solar-powered water pump.

Sunshine is renewable energy. Renewable energy comes from sources that nature will replace. Some contend that solar energy is not renewable because of greenhouse gas emitted during the solar panel manufacturing process.

While that does happen, there is no emission of toxins after that during solar energy production. For that reason, solar-powered water pumps are considered clean energy sources.

Useful in remote areas
Since the sun provides the energy, an external power source isn’t necessary, which means a solar-powered water pump will work in remote places and areas without access to a power grid.

Easy to maintain
Solar-powered water pumps have very few mechanical parts, which lessens the chances of components needing repairs. They can last for many years without requiring maintenance.

Easy to install
Engineers aren’t required to assemble or install solar-powered water pumps. They have few components and can be installed easily by local people.

Increasing productivity
Water collection is grueling for those in developing countries. It can require walking for several hours in each direction. Solar-powered water pumps save time from not having to collect water, improving health, and making time for other productive activities.

Farmers can produce more food when they aren’t dependent on rainfall or electricity.

Solar-powered water pumps provide a reliable water source because it doesn’t require electricity.

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