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An innovative water pump powered by solar energy is helping farmers in India, while Spain has announced a high-power solar PV irrigation system
In low rainfall or groundwater-lacking areas with power supply limitations, irrigation can become a true challenge. Wells require pumps connected to the power grid or diesel power generators, which are unaffordable for many farmers in emerging economies. Back in 2013, Katie Taylor was an MIT undergraduate concerned about the irrigation challenges that Indian farmers were facing. Her first project was aimed at helping them with a low-pressure drip irrigation system, but she would soon change her approach once she initiated conversations with local farmers. They all agreed that their main concern was obtaining groundwater. Taylor shared her findings with a couple of classmates and the decided to develop an innovative technology that has recently reached the market – a solar-powered groundwater pump.
The team started working on an early prototype back in 2014, when they were still attending classes and had to find spare time on their weekends. Finally, in 2016 they decided moving to India to work side by side with local farmers. They also decided that they would manufacture the equipment in India. The final device, with a no-fuss installation, comprises two solar panels, a centrifugal solar pump and a controller. According to Taylor, the centrifugal technology is the key to the efficiency and low cost of the system. The device can pump double the water of other similar priced solutions available in India.
Another key element is the low weight of the whole setup. The pump weighs less than five kilos, while the solar panels can be carried on the back. Portability was one of the priorities from the get-go, as plenty of Indian farmers sleep with all their belongings to avoid theft. Taylor and her team expect to sell a hundred pumps to farmers in the states of Jharkhand and West Bengal over the first quarter of 2020. Some of the farmers purchase the pumps jointly to split the cost.
In a similar fashion, the Solar Power Institute from the Technical University of Madrid has led a large-scale European project to develop solar-powered irrigation systems. Their innovative technology, which has just reached the market, consumes 30 percent less water with power costs down by 60-80 percent. The successful tests were carried out in southern countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Morocco. Unlike the technology developed by Taylor’s startup, this his a high power irrigation system that can also provide hybrid power solutions, adding fuel generators to the mix. According to the researchers behind this technology project, the use of this type of irrigation systems would allow saving up to twenty billion cubic meters of water every year. Additionally, it would reduce carbon emissions by sixteen million tons.