As the world population grows, so does the demand for food. Livestock farming has been an essential part of food production for centuries, and it is still one of the most important sectors in the New Zealand and Australian agricultural industry.
However, providing adequate water for livestock can be challenging, especially in remote areas where access to electricity and water is limited. Solar water pumps have emerged as not just a sustainable solution for providing water for stock but have also become in many cases the most cost-effective option as well.
In this article, we will discuss the key factors that impact solar water pumps on farms and explore the challenges associated with different approaches.
The availability of solar energy is a crucial factor when it comes to solar water pumps. Solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy, which is used to power the pump. The amount of energy generated depends on the number and quality of solar panels used. In areas with low sunlight or frequent cloud cover, more solar panels may be needed to generate enough energy to power the pump.
Water availability is another critical factor. The source of water can be a well, borehole, pond, or river. The height the water needs to be pumped to, the distance it needs pumped and the size of the pipe it is being pumped through all affect the amount of energy required to pump the water. For instance, a lower pumping height requires less energy to pump water than a higher one, and a low flow rate requires less energy than high flow rate. Additionally, the quality of the water source should be considered to prevent contamination and ensure the health of the livestock.
The type of pump used in a solar water pumping system is also a significant factor. There are two primary types of solar pumps: submersible and surface pumps. Submersible pumps are placed inside the water source, while surface pumps are installed outside the water source. Our Perkinz Solar Submersible Pumps(Solar Subs) are usually more cost-effective than our React Pumps(surface) and often require less maintenance, but they can sometimes struggle to pump to a high height and may require a larger number of solar panels to drive them. It is especially important that the pump should be appropriate for the situation. For example, using exactly the same number of panels, one pump could pump 5,000 litres of water to a 200 metre height, whereas a different pump could pump 50,000 litres to a 15 metre height.
Farming and Farms
Farming practices and the type of farm also impact solar water pumps. Farms with a larger livestock population require more water and, therefore, more energy to pump water. Moreover, farms located in remote areas may not have access to grid electricity, making solar water pumps the only viable option. Farming practices such as rotational grazing can also affect the availability of water.
The type and number of livestock on a farm also impact solar water pumps. Different animals have different water requirements, and the water needs of an animal can vary depending on its age, weight, and the climate. For instance, sheep require less water than cattle, and pregnant or lactating animals may require more water than non-pregnant animals. The number of livestock also affects the amount of water needed, and the solar water pump system should be designed to meet the water requirements of all the animals on the farm. In New Zealand it is a general rule of thumb(do your own research on this) that dairy cattle will drink around 50 litres of water per day and around 8 litres for a lactating sheep. This drops to about 30 litres for beef cattle and 3-4 litres for sheep.
Providing clean drinking water for livestock is essential for their health and well-being. Contaminated water can cause diseases and even death in animals. Therefore, the quality of the water source should be tested periodically to ensure that it is safe for the animals. Moreover, the water system should be designed to prevent contamination, and the water should be easily accessible to the animals.
Balancing the different factors involved in solar water pumps providing water for livestock on farms requires trade-offs. For instance, installing more solar panels can increase the amount of energy generated, but it also increases the cost of the system. Additionally, in my experience using a surface pump is often more efficient but can also be more expensive than a submersible pump. The main factors to take in when looking at a potential solar water pumping system for your sheep or cattle are
- Height you need the water pumped.
- Distance you need the water pumped, and pipe size.
- Water source. E.g., Do you need a surface or submersible pump?
- Water needed on average per summer day
- Distance of solar panels from pump.
There are several challenges associated with solar water pumps providing water for livestock on farms. For instance, the initial cost of installing a solar water pump system can be high, making it difficult for small farmers to afford it although this has become less of an issue with the price of solar falling significantly. It is especially important that ongoing maintenance and repairs are factored in to any calculations, and it always makes sense to have some contingency water options in place for your stock in the event that something unforeseen happens and your systems break down for a period of time. It’s also worth considering whether your system may be vulnerable to theft and vandalism.
Common Questions and Answers
- What is a solar water pump?
A solar water pump is a pump that is powered by solar panels. It is used to pump water from a water source to provide water for livestock on farms.
- What are the benefits of using a solar water pump?
Solar water pumps reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and grid electricity, which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs. Moreover, providing clean drinking water for livestock can improve animal health and productivity, which can lead to increased revenue for farmers. Additionally, solar water pumps can improve water management on farms and reduce the strain on water resources.
- How much does it cost to install a solar water pump system?
The cost of installing a solar water pump system varies depending on the size of the system, the number and quality of solar panels used, and the type of pump used. Our prices for complete turnkey solutions start from NZ$3,850, and the most common system that we sell to our New Zealand client’s costs between NZ$6,000 and NZ$8,000.
- How do I maintain my solar water pump system?
Periodic maintenance is required to ensure that the solar water pump system is working optimally. This includes cleaning the solar panels, checking the pump and the wiring, and testing the water quality.
- What happens if my solar water pump system breaks down?
When dealing with any pump it’s not if it breaks down but when, as they all require maintenance and will eventually wear out. We encourage our clients to have spare parts, or even back up units, on hand, so that if something needs fixed, you can fix it immediately. Failing to plan means planning to fail, and that applies to solar water pumps as much as anything else.
For more information, or to purchase, please go to Perkinz Solar Water Pumps.