Researchers from the Higher Technical School of Roads, Canals and Ports Engineering of the University of Granada have designed, at the request of the Community of Irrigators of Loma de las Vacas de Castril (Granada), a unique solar irrigation system, which allowed them to completely abandon the dependence on supplying the commercial electricity grid and completely disconnect from it.

The aim was to achieve savings on current pumping costs, mainly those arising from electricity consumption.

The team led by José Antonio Moreno, professor at the Department of Structural Mechanics and Hydraulics at the University of Granada, has succeeded in developing a pumping system with a solar power plant capable of generating 235 kW. The system combines hydraulic and electrical design to achieve pumping up to 20% more efficient than conventional solar pumps.

The irrigation network also has a re-pumping with the same design premises, reaching a final pumping level of 270 meters, so that the irrigation is carried out on demand of 210 meters, which will imply a saving of important water and that, together with the use of renewable energies, they make it a unique irrigation system with this type of alternative energy.

The community found it necessary to explore alternative energy routes, as the costs of supplying conventional electricity made it impossible to continue the agricultural activity on which 25 families in Castril depended.

José Antonio Moreno.

The Irrigation Community had an administrative concession for the use of water with an average supply of 11 liters per second, coming from the wastewater treatment plant in the town of Castril. The irrigation system consisted of two pumping stations which raised the water to a 24,000 cubic meter pool, after having exceeded an altitude of 210 meters, and with an energy consumption close to 50,000 euros per year.

In short, the irrigable area on which 25 families depend is located in a mountain area at very high altitude.

José Antonio Moreno.

The main problem we encountered is the great height to overcome, 210 meters of drop, so the pressure is important. Until now, solar energy has not made a system that pumps this flow to this height, so it is a unique pump in the world today. The development of this prototype was an engineering challenge for the University.

José Antonio Moreno.

The commissioning of the new pumping station has satisfied the needs of farmers, who see it as the ideal closure of the water cycle and also in a completely ecological way, using treated wastewater and solar energy. Given the very specific characteristics of the system, it has already been visited by professors from universities in developing countries, such as Benim, Algeria or Nigeria, to inquire.

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