When you think of solar power, you might envision the sleek new tech of the future. Although solar power is more commonly used these days, it is still often associated with a more delicate purpose. However, solar power is increasingly used in the nitty-gritty industries, showing that it can get down and dirty like any other form of energy.
Running surface pumps using solar power is an increasingly popular practice. In rural, remote, or otherwise difficult to access regions, solar-powered surface pumps provide an efficient and economical alternative to pumps fueled or powered by traditional means.
Whether intended for small consumer purposes or large scale projects, surface pumps are invaluable tools in a variety of circumstances. Coupling the ability to power these instruments with solar panels enables the use of surface pumps in ways that add new convenience and versatility to match a variety of needs.
Surface Pumps Move Water
Surface pumps are used in a variety of ways with the purpose of achieving one objective, pumping water from one location to another. Situated above the ground, surface pumps allow for directing the flow of water into a desired location.
Surface pumps can pump water from under the ground or above it, but the pump itself remains above the waterline. Some of the diverse reasons someone may need to use a surface pump include:
- Draining a pond
- Removing standing water
- Providing access to clean water
Your project may be large scale or smaller, and its size will determine what kind of surface pump will work best. If, however, you are irrigating commercial-scale crop fields or providing drinking water to an entire community, you will require industrial-strength surface pumps.
Although Tesla motors have been used for solar-powered submersible pumping projects, it does not seem like a stretch of logic to assume Tesla motors could be used in surface pumping projects as well.
Solar Panels Connected to Surface Pumps
Solar water pumps do not require a ton of complicated components, and in many ways, they adhere to the mechanics of traditionally powered surface pumps. The basic mechanical elements are:
- Solar panels
- Electric motor
- Water pump
- Pump controller
While the size and type of the components will vary depending on your needs, the installation process is fairly straightforward. It involves connecting the solar panels to the motor, which is attached to the motor and pump controller.
However, you do need to know what wattage your electric pump requires to determine the size of solar panels you need to purchase.
With the process being so straightforward, you could likely build your own solar power water pumping station, but there are also industry professionals you could hire to assist you.
Humans Have Always Used Solar Power
At first glance, harnessing solar energy seems like a modern-day miracle. In some ways, it is. It is energy derived from the sun’s massive quantities of solar radiation, but humans have benefited from solar energy for as long as we have been on the planet.
With the advancement of technology, we have been able to capture the sun’s power through photovoltaic cells. These cells convert solar radiation into energy we can use to power something as small as a calculator or as large as a building, including surface pumps. Of course, the more energy you need, the more photovoltaic cells you need.
When you see solar panels on roofs, you will often notice that there are several of them to maximize the capture of solar power. In desert areas outside of Las Vegas, you might pass by vast solar plants. The amount of electricity a solar panel will produce depends on:
- How much direct sunlight it gets
- How large the solar panel is
- The solar panel wattage
Although we can currently harness almost 20% of the sun’s energy, researchers believe that this number will only increase as the demand for solar power grows. This growth will further incentivize technological advances and make things such as running surface pumps using solar power easier.
Solar Power Is Now Used for Personal and Commercial Purposes
NASA began using solar cells in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the average consumer did not begin incorporating solar power into their home until around the 1990s. These days, it is not uncommon to encounter solar power in your day to day life. From speakers to phone chargers, solar power is available at nearly every level.
For large-scale solar power projects, Tesla has become a household brand name. Initially widely known for its electric vehicles, Tesla is becoming increasingly recognized for its solar services.
For heavy-duty powering, Tesla’s 340-watt panels measure 68.5″ x 40.6″ x 1.57″. Additionally, they operate in temperature conditions ranging from negative 40 degrees up to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. A coupling of Tesla motors with Tesla’s solar initiatives could easily lend itself to running surface pumps with solar power.
Solar-Powered Surface Pumps Are Practical
You may be wondering how practical it is to run surface pumps with solar power. As mentioned earlier, there is already a recognition on an industrial scale to incorporate solar power into agriculture. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy even notes several benefits for solar-powered farms.
One big incentive associated with solar-powered water pumps in the agricultural industry is the cost of energy saved down the road in pumping water for irrigation. Notably, it can be expensive to install a big solar project, but farmers can even co-locate solar technologies within their agricultural practice.
Not only are solar-powered surface pumps practical in commercial operations, but they can be successfully utilized in acquiring freshwater for those in need, as discussed in more detail later in this article.
In addition to large scale undertakings, there are upsides to using solar-powered surface pumps on every for scaled-down projects. After all, sometimes we just need to get the standing water out of the rose garden after a water line break.
Solar-Powered Surface Pumps for Small Jobs
A simple google search reveals that there are already a number of small scale solar powered surface pumps on the market. These alternatively powered pumps are quite a bit more expensive than their counterparts, but again, you should consider that you will save on the costs associated with traditional fuel or power over time.
In addition to paying for themselves over time, the smaller solar-powered surface pumps can be taken to locations off-grid, where access to fuel and grid electricity simply is not an option. Having the flexibility to take your solar-powered pump with you on short notice, without the worry of connecting to a power source, is truly a convenience.
Solar-Powered Surface Pumps for Big Jobs
The biggest reward stemming from solar-powered surface pumps is how they fit into much bigger jobs. In addition to the smaller and more portable solar-powered surface water pumps, solar panels can be used in pumping large quantities of water.
In addition to the commercial benefits of solar-powered water pumping, there are also gains for people in need. In particular, enlisting solar power to help move large quantities of water for humanitarian purposes is beneficial.
Solar-Powered Surface Pumps for Clean Water
The truth is, 30% of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water. Consider these roadblocks to providing clean water for people:
- Remote locations
- Difficult terrain
- Lack of utility grid power sources
In many cases, utilizing solar power in pumping water for people is more efficient than alternatives. For example, hand pumps have often been installed in underprivileged regions, but hand pumps cannot pump water in the quantities that mechanical pumps can.
While surface water pumps powered by traditional means would be able to pump as much water as solar-powered surface water pumps, the ongoing utility costs could be prohibitive. That is, of course, assuming traditional utilities were available, to begin with.
Solar-powered pumping is often touted as an ideal way of providing clean water to people. Often, water scarcity occurs in dry climates. These climates are ideal for solar panels as they have an abundance of cloudless days making solar panels an ideal form of energy production.
Solar Power Batteries Provide Reliability
Unfortunately, solar power requires the sun for energy production. This means that at night time or on gloomy days, you will not be able to produce the electricity you will need to run a solar-powered surface water pump.
Understanding this drawback of solar power, battery technologies have been developed to help us deal with this problem. Solar batteries, also known as deep cycle batteries, differ from regular batteries. There are four main types of solar batteries, with the most popular being the lead-acid battery. The remaining types of solar batteries include:
A solar battery will hold a charge for several hours, but the amount of time you can run off of a solar battery depends on how fully it was charged, to begin with. Additionally, the length of the charge depends on how much power you are pulling from the battery.
Tesla’s in-home battery, for example, the Powerwall, can power a small house for a day if the local power grid goes down. Tesla’s electric motor battery is also making headlines for improvements in efficiency and price. For optimum reliability, it is a great idea to couple your solar-powered surface pump system with a durable solar battery.
Electric Motors Are Powerful
It has been said that electric motors do not stand up to gas-powered motors. While this may have been true at one time, today’s electric motors are vastly improved. Not only can electric motors reach full torque more quickly, but their ability to reach near-instantaneous torque allows them to pull heavier loads.
In addition to the torque element, electric motors are also more efficient in converting energy into movement, doing so more quickly than gas-fueled motors.
Tesla is most widely known for delivering stylish electric cars to the auto market. You probably would not associate Tesla with industrial-strength water pumps. But, the fact is, the durable design of their motors translates well from sleek and sustainable vehicles to the powerful pumping action required in solar-powered surface pumps.
Initial Cost of Solar Powered Surface Pumps
Depending on the amount of water you need to pump and the length of time you will be pumping, a solar-powered surface water pump will vary in initial setup cost. For example, a smaller scale tankless system will cost between $2,000 and $3,000 after taxes.
A large scale solar water pumping project that serves just over 2,000 people can cost close to $40,000. While this may seem like an astronomical upfront cost, the system can be utilized for an estimated 20 years, bringing the average cost per person per year to under $2.00.
Solar Power Is Cost-Effective
Solar energy is cheaper than traditional grid energy derived from fossil fuels. In fact, solar energy is becoming even more affordable as technology advances. Oil and gas markets have always been volatile and have become more unpredictable as the Covid-19 pandemic has stifled travel, leaving people to wonder about the price of gas.
The cost of fuel may go mostly unnoticed for small projects, but if you are draining entire ponds to maintain water levels or you are irrigating crops, then the solar pumping system would eventually pay for itself. Estimates indicate that solar panels can pay for themselves within a decade.
Similarly, if you are trying to provide an entire underprivileged population of people with safe drinking water, then you will relieve the folks of that community from having to foot the ongoing costs of fuel or connection to a utility grid.
Additional Benefits of Running Surface Pumps With Solar Power
The cost to benefit from solar power is one reason to invest in solar panels for your surface pumping operations, but there are additional factors that may induce you to research your solar options.
Consider how well solar power can work as a backup system. Even if there is another power source available, having solar to depend on in those situations where it is not could be a valuable decision.
Preparedness in Emergency Situations
Surface pumps are always great to have on hand, even if you do not have an immediate need for one. A good example is if you experience flooding in your home and need to get rid of water from the low lying areas in the house.
Many varieties of surface pumps are powered by fossil fuels, either with gas or with traditionally sourced electricity. In an emergency situation, though, the electricity to your home may be shut down. Similarly, lines at the gas station can be hard to access during community-wide emergencies.
The ability to power your surface pump through solar technology would be immensely helpful in these scenarios, and there is no better time to be prepared than during an emergency.
Solar Power Is Environmentally Friendly
It is hard to discuss the benefits of solar energy without talking about its beneficial environmental impacts. In addition to being a cheaper alternative fuel source, solar power also helps the environment in the following ways:
- Reduces carbon footprint
- Creates less pollution
- Uses less water
Ironically, water scarcity is one reason that certain populations need solar-powered surface pumps in accessing a fresh water supply. By harnessing the power of the sun to pump water, you would not be simultaneously contributing to the problem.
Tesla’s commitment to clean energy is part of its mission statement. The company describes a commitment to sustainable energy that aligns with many consumer sentiments today. As a recognizable leader in solar power for everyday use, it will be exciting to continue to see them advance their technologies in new ways.
The Outlook of Solar Power
Interestingly, as the popularity of solar power grows, companies that you would not normally think of as renewable industry players are beginning to participate in solar energy. The oil and gas industry has even taken an interest in this type of renewable energy, causing marketplace acceleration.
Although electricity usage fell by nearly 4% in 2020, a focus on climate policy within a new federal administration, along with an economy stabilizing after the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, should correct that slip.
2020 predictions for growth in the renewable energy industry were not as robust as anticipated due to supply chain disruptions and an unprecedented change in utility needs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That said, most experts agree that solar power will continue to grow despite the stymied results of a chaotic year.
As solar power grows more popular, the costs associated with it are likely to go down, making solar panels more accessible. As solar power becomes an increasingly mainstream source of energy, we will be able to use it for a wider variety of electrical needs. Such needs absolutely include running surface pumps using solar power.