Sometimes the cost of running overhead power lines to power remote pumps is cost prohibitive on large acreages. This causes farmers and ranchers to look for alternative energy sources. In Florida, a great energy source is solar energy.
There are many advantages to using solar energy to pump water for livestock. It is a definite cost saving to the rancher. The initial cost of set up may be much less expensive than running overhead lines, plus the cost of running the system is very low. Using solar power, remote locations can now have a well and power to run the well. Maintenance on these systems is very low. The lifespan of solar panels is over 20 years now and many companies warranty them for that length of time.
Having access to water in remote locations allows the rancher to keep livestock out of surface waters. This is not only good for the environment but has also been proven to be good for the health of the herd.
The system pumps water only when the solar panels gather sunlight. When the sun is not shining, the pump is not pumping. That is one disadvantage of the system. However, if you set up your system to include a DC-to-AC inverter, you can use a generator to run the system during extended periods of cloudiness.
Components of the system include a well, a submersible pump with DC motor, a controller, a photovoltaic array (solar panels), and a water storage tank. A DC-to-AC inverter may also be installed as insurance against cloudy days.
There are many things to consider when designing your system such as daily water requirement, storage tank capacity, pumping requirements, hydraulic workload, pump and flow rate and photovoltaic determination. Each system is different because each water well is different. Differences in depth of the well, width of pipe, elevation and height of the water storage tank makes it difficult to have cookie cutter specifications. This process involves math and physics. Many ranchers will want to work with experts to determine these values in order to design the system properly.
The USDA NRCS has a cost-share program to help offset the cost of setting up a solar pumping system for livestock. They are also a great resource when designing the system. Your local county extension agent can also help you find resources for designing your system.
Please click on the video below for a first hand look at one of these systems in operation on a local Walton County ranch.
For more information on this topic, please consult the following resources:
- Designing Solar Water Pumping Systems for Livestock – NM State University
- Using Renewable Energy to Pump Water – Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
- Design of Small Photovoltaic (PV) Solar-Powered Water Pump Systems – USDA NRCS
Co-authored by Mike Goodchild, Walton County Extension Director