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Solar Power Water Pump Studies for Small-scale Irrigation

Irrigation is a well established procedure on many farms in western Canada and is practiced on various levels around the world. It allows diversification of crops, while increasing crop yields. However, typical irrigation systems consume a great amount of conventional energy through the use of electric motors and generators powered by fuel.

The overall objective of this research was to determine the feasibility of using photovoltaic (PV) modules to power a water pump for a small-scale drip irrigation system in Montréal (Québec, Canada). The study involved field observations, as well as computer simulations of global solar radiation and PV electrical output.

Field observations involved a summer and winter installation of two amorphous silicon 42 W PV modules, directly connected to a 12 V surface water pump. The parameters monitored were voltage, current, back-of-panel temperature, pressure, and flow. These observed parameters were used to determine PV electrical output and volume of water pumped. Site latitude, elevation, and panel tilt were applied to the solar radiation and PV electrical output models, along with the following meteorological data: daily average, maximum, and minimum temperatures, and global solar radiation.

Daily solar radiation prediction showed a linear correlation of 0.69 with the observed daily values, over the years 2000 to 2005. The correlation coefficient was improved to 0.91, when 7 day moving averages of both the observed and predicted solar radiation data were used. PV electrical output and volume of water pumped were monitored between August 2005 and May 2006.

Both the power and water output observations were less than expected. However, the predicted daily PV electrical output ranged from 1.0 MJ d-1 in the summer to approximately 0.6 MJ d-1 in the winter. As expected, an increase in power caused an increase in the volume of water pumped.
Source: McGill University
Author: Erin Williamson

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