Solar-powered irrigation systems

Solar-powered irrigation systems

Solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) are increasingly in demand as they can provide a cost-effective and “clean” solution to increase agricultural productivity. Access to water for irrigation is key to farmers, particularly to sustain their livelihoods and food security. However, operating irrigation systems efficiently often calls for the adoption of local irrigation techniques and this in turn requires a source of energy. In the absence of a reliable electricity supply in many areas, farmers sometimes must resort to diesel-based pumping systems. These systems create high operating costs particularly in remote areas, require frequent servicing which is not always available.

Solar energy

Solar energy is the infinite renewable energy with huge usages. The energy generated by sun is about 1.6×1023kW per second with 8×1013kW of them that reach the surface of the earth, which is equal to 6×109 tons of coals. According to the calculation, the total annual energy generated by sunshine reaching the surface of the earth is equal to 1.892×101.3 trillion tons of coals. It is 10 thousand times of the main current energy reserves in global. Making use of the infinite solar energy and utilizing solar pumping systems with various irrigation facilities and high-tech water saving technologies it can potentially solve the energy problems of agricultural irrigation.

Solar potential

South Africa has a high potential for solar powered irrigation. Most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year, and average solar-radiation levels range between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 in one day. This makes South Africa’s local resource one of the highest in the world. The use of solar energy is the most readily accessible resource in South Africa. There has been a lag in the development of SPIS in South Africa mainly due to the high investment cost associated with solar technology. In the last few years, South Africa has gone through load shedding which has also affected many farmers in the country, particularly commercial farmers.

Energy supply for pumping irrigation water

The traditional way and still the biggest energy supply for pumping irrigation water is electricity but diesel-, gas- or petrol-driven pumps are also popular in areas where there is no electricity. Such conventional pumps, however, have the double drawback of requiring a lot of maintenance as well as a regular supply of fuel and physical attendance for operation. Particularly in remote areas of developing areas and countries, access to spare parts, maintenance structures or fuel can be limited, leading to frequent outages of several days or longer. With the right knowledge on proper use, operation and maintenance of solar photovoltaic pumps, failures are much less likely than with conventional pumping systems.

Irrigation systems are increasingly in demand

Renewable energy options, in particular solar power, offer promising and reliable solutions for sustainable agriculture in regions with high-incident solar-energy. Solar energy has environmental advantages, low operation and maintenance costs and increasingly low investment costs. Until recently, the use of solar energy for irrigation had not generated a lot of interest amongst governments, farmers, and development agencies because of its high investment costs. As these costs are being reduced, and with growing concerns of climate change, there is renewed attention to this technology. Many countries are testing and promoting the solar technology for irrigation in the framework of national action plans, as a solution to climate change and the lack of access to electricity and fossil fuel in rural areas.

Irrigated agriculture

Agriculture solar power has become a preferred method of energy supply and farmers are starting to invest in cost-saving and sustainable technology that is practical and environmentally friendly. Solar power is used to generate electricity, pump, and heat water to fulfil many useful functions throughout a farm.The full article is for subscribed members only. To view the full article please subscribe. It’s FREE!Log In Register


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