Key Components in a Solar PV Pumping System

A typical solar-powered pumping system contains the following equipment: a solar array, which converts sunlight into electricity; system controllers, which control the array and the pump; an electric motor, which drives the pump; and a water pump, which moves the water from a source to its delivery point.

The solar array provides the energy supply for the system. Solar radiation levels fluctuate during the day, and there are none at night, so a solar pumping system needs to be designed to pump daily water requirements within these energy limitations. The size of the solar pumping system is determined by the amount of water that needs to be moved and by how far and to what elevation this water must be moved.

The energy flows in a solar pumping system

The energy, power, and water flows in a simple solar water pumping system are shown above in Figure 5: The energy flows in a solar pumping system. If desired, energy or water storage can be included in the system to store excess energy generated on days when solar energy is greater than the average, either by pumping extra water and storing it or by keeping the extra electricity generated in batteries. Water can then be provided on very cloudy days or even overnight.

Solar radiation. The amount of energy received from the sun at a given location. This determines how much power each solar module will generate in a day and the array size needed to pump a required volume of water. A site with low solar radiation levels will need a more extensive array than one with high solar radiation levels.

Solar array. A generator that converts solar radiation into electricity. An array comprises solar modules (the generation components), a mounting structure, and electrical safety equipment (‘electrical protection’).

Control systems. The units that control the array and the pump. The array control system optimizes electricity production from solar energy and matches the electricity to the pump’s motor requirements. The pumping control system controls when and for how long the pump operates.

Pump and motor. The pump moves the water from a source to its delivery point. It must be powerful enough to move the required volume of water at the required distance.

Battery storage and other generators. Backup electricity can be provided by batteries that store excess solar energy or additional generators, such as wind turbines or diesel generators.

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