The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Water Pumping System

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When deciding which water pump to use to irrigate your farm, there are some advantages and disadvantages of solar water pumps we thought would be helpful for you to know.

As you’ll know from past decisions, all new tools and technologies for your farm have pros and cons. Solar pumps are no different. Using the information below to guide your decision will make sure you get the right water pump for your needs.

SOLAR WATER PUMP ADVANTAGE – ZERO FUEL COSTS

Solar water pumps are powered by solar panels. Once you have the panel, all the energy you need comes from the sun and is completely free! This is a major advantage over fossil fuel pumps which require you to constantly buy fuel. Fuel can add a significant cost to your farm irrigation.

Using free solar energy is also an advantage over manual irrigation which takes up a lot of your valuable energy and time (more on this later!).

SOLAR WATER PUMP DISADVANTAGE – CAN’T PUMP WATER WHEN IT IS DARK

We were just talking about how great solar panels are (and they really are great!), but they do need sunlight to work. If you are wanting to irrigate in the early morning or late evening, you may find there is not enough sunlight for your solar water pump to work. However, with a bit of planning you can reduce this disadvantage.

One of the best things to do is get a water tank. During the sunniest parts of the day, use your solar pump to pump water to your tank. You will then have water available via gravity feed whenever you need to irrigate your crops.

Related Post:  17 Advantages and Disadvantages of Irrigation Systems

You could also use a battery with your pump when the sun is not out, but we don’t recommend this as batteries can be expensive and have very short lifetimes.

Tank supplying water to greenhouse and drip irrigation
Tanks holding water for drip irrigation

SOLAR WATER PUMP ADVANTAGE – LESS LABOUR & MAINTENANCE

Solar water pumps can really reduce the amount of labour and time that is needed to irrigate your crops. Just connect it to your chosen irrigation method, turn on your solar pump and it does all the work for you.

Solar pumps also require less labour and maintenance compared to fossil fuel pumps. First, you won’t run out of fuel and need to travel to the petrol station when your crops are desperate for water. Second, solar pumps, especially with good warranty periods, won’t let you down, whereas fossil fuel pumps require a lot of servicing and regular maintenance.

This ease of maintenance applies especially to surface solar pumps (ones that are not submerged in water). Because they don’t need to be kept watertight they are repairable. In fact, most maintenance can be done with basic tools on your farm.

Just remember to keep your solar panels clean to keep it producing as much energy as possible!

Farmer cleaning the solar panels of the SF2

SOLAR WATER PUMP DISADVANTAGE – HIGH UPFRONT COSTS

The upfront cost of solar water pumps can be a barrier to some farmers, as you need to buy the water pump and panels all at once.

However, in the long-term, solar pumps are the cheaper option for irrigation. This is because of the advantages already discussed – no ongoing fuel costs, long pump lifetimes and low labour and maintenance costs.

Related Post:  5 Benefits of Gravity Drip Irrigation System
Josephine setting up her Futurepump SF2
The Futurepump SF2 being used to grow crops and sell water to neighbouring farms during the dry season in Kenya, 2019

It’s a good idea to consider how long you will want your water pump to last and calculate the cost of fuel and maintenance over this time. You will be surprised to see how quickly what you spend on fuel adds up and, therefore, the savings you will make!

On top of that, it is very promising that the cost of solar is continuing to fall, whereas the price of petrol is on the rise. This means that this disadvantage is getting smaller and smaller!

SOLAR WATER PUMP ADVANTAGE – ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY

Manual irrigation of crops during the dry season
Growing crops through the dry season

Solar water pumps are sustainable and use renewable energy. They do not produce harmful pollutants which keeps the air and soil on your farm clean.

Compare this to fossil fuel pumps, they create a lot of pollution both with fumes into the air and spills of fuel into your soil.

This one is very important to us. Rainfall is becoming more unpredictable and, as the climate changes, agriculture will become more difficult across the tropics. The agricultural sector needs to find new, sustainable practices to help tackle the problem and ways to cope with the changes. Solar irrigation is a fantastic option that is available now.


Futurepump SF2 solar pump, pumping water from a well down to crops during the dry season