There are more than 10,000 solar powered surface and bore water pumps in use around the world today. They are widely used on farms and outback stations in Australia to supply bore and surface sourced water to livestock.
In developing countries they are used extensively to pump water from wells and rivers to villages for domestic consumption and irrigation of crops. Once a very expensive technology, prices have dropped in recent years and can be further offset through government rebates (Western Australia) and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)
A typical solar powered pumping system consists of a solar panel array that powers an electric motor, which in turn powers a bore or surface pump. The water is often pumped from the ground or stream into a storage tank that provides a gravity feed, so energy storage is not needed for these systems. PV powered pumping systems are a cost-effective alternative to agricultural wind turbines for remote area water supply.
Photovoltaic (PV) systems are used to pump water for livestock, plants or humans. Since the need for water is greatest on hot sunny days the technology is an obvious choice for this application. Pumping water using PV technology is simple, reliable, and requires almost no maintenance.
For farmers with a creek running through their properties, using a solar powered water pumping solution means less fouling of waterways and far less erosion of banks. It can also lead to better pasture management as livestock will be able to access water via multiple distribution points.
Solar powered water pumping systems are similar to any other pumping system, only the power source is solar energy. PV pumping systems have, as a minimum, a PV array, a motor, and a bore pump. Solar water pumping arrays are fixed mounted or sometimes placed on passive trackers (which use no motors) to increase pumping time and volume. AC and DC motors with centrifugal or displacement pumps are used.
The most inexpensive solar bore pumps cost less than $1,500, while the large systems can run to over $20,000, however, the pricing can be reduced through government rebates (Western Australia) and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Most PV water pumps rarely exceed 2 horsepower in size. Well installed quality PV water pumping systems can provide over 20 years of reliable and continuous service.