Solar energy for irrigation: solutions and types
Image: Tofan Singh Chouhan – Shutterstock.

Among the various applications of photovoltaic panels is their use in the production of solar energy for agricultural irrigation.

As in domestic and commercial installations, here the technology is also presented as a economical and sustainable solution to replace other energy sources.

Using only sunlight as “fuel”, the plates can provide all the electricity needed to power irrigation systemsregardless of type or size.

It is not surprising that the number of photovoltaic systems installed in rural areas is increasing day by day around the world.

Today we are talking about how solar technology works and the types of systems that exist for irrigation systems. You will also learn what equipment is needed in each of them.

Photovoltaic energy for irrigation: how does it work?

A solar energy system for irrigation works using photovoltaic panels.

As we already know, a solar panel uses only sunlight to generate electrical energy.

This transformation of light into energy takes place inside each of the photovoltaic cells that make up the plate.

Each solar panel model has a certain output power which on its own is not sufficient to power an irrigation system.

Therefore, it is necessary to calculate the number of panels that will be needed based on the consumption of each irrigation project.

When they are together and connected, they form what is called a photovoltaic kit.

Solar power system for irrigation: types

Therefore, if the plates are operated in sunlight, their generation will depend on the amount of sunlight available.

In cloudy weather, the generation of panels will be less, while at night it is zero.

There are two main types of solar power systems for use in the field that differ in the way they handle this intermittency.

Systems connected to the network.

Systems operating connected to the distributor’s electrical network.

In this way, when the generation of the panel is lower, the rest of the necessary energy is extracted from the electrical network.

When the generation of the panels is greater than the energy consumed at that time, the surplus is sent to the electrical network.

Depending on the country you live in, that electricity you put into the grid will be converted into cash or a reduction on your electricity bill.

In rural areas located in places with access to the electricity grid, this is the most recommended type of installation.

Photovoltaic energy for irrigation
Image: GoneWithTheWind – Shutterstock.

Isolated systems.

As the name suggests, these are systems that are NOT connected to the power grid.

There are three subtypes of isolated systems:

  • With storage: In these systems, a bank of batteries is dimensioned so that the energy of the plates can be stored. This way on cloudy days or at night the stored solar energy can be used to power our irrigation system.
  • No storage: As we have no batteries, the system will only work when it is sunny. Therefore, this type of installation is not recommended if we have the constant need for irrigation.
  • Hybrid systems: These are the systems that use solar panels with another electrical generation system. It could be a wind turbine, a biomass system or even the traditional diesel generator. A hybrid system may or may not have an energy storage system.

Solar kit for irrigation.

A solar system for irrigation does not only use photovoltaic panels.

Other equipment is needed to use the electrical energy generated by the panels.

A photovoltaic system must have:

  • Photovoltaic solar panel: set of plates that capture sunlight, converting it into electricity thanks to their photovoltaic cells. Solar panels for sale in the market consist of 60 or 72 cells each.
  • Photovoltaic inverter: It is considered to be the “brain” of a photovoltaic system. The inverter is responsible for adapting the energy generated by the plates to the standard that we use in our electrical network and our equipment. Technically: from direct current to alternating current. It also controls the flow of energy, drawing or injecting energy into the network (On-Grid systems) or into the battery bank (Off-Grid systems).
  • Connection box: It is the set of components for the protection of modules against network surges and other electrical damage in network systems.
  • Support and mounting structures: metal structures in which solar panels are fixed. When the panels are installed on the roofs, the rail system is used. For the installation of the panels in the field, structures of the solar installation type are used. In addition to providing the necessary support and fixation, the structures ensure the correct inclination of the plates in relation to the sun, maximizing its electricity production.
  • Wiring: the complete set of cables and connectors to make the electrical connection between the different components of the rural solar kit.
  • Battery bank: the battery system needed to store energy in isolated systems. The number of batteries must be calculated very well so that the stored solar energy can power the irrigation system in times of low or no sun.
  • Charge controller: It is the equipment that efficiently manages the charge of the batteries, by supplying them correctly.

advantage

When talking about solar irrigation systems, the main advantage that should be mentioned is the cost reduction.

In the case of projects in areas isolated from the commercial power grid, photovoltaic kits are presented as a much cheaper option than diesel generators.

The useful life of a solar panel is 25 years, during which years it generates free energy from sunlight, while diesel generators always need fuel.

Solar power is also a better option than using the electricity grid.

In addition to the high price of energy, its constant inflation makes it more expensive to consume the same amount of energy each year.

With the photovoltaic system, you are free from these price increases and taxes, because it guarantees your energy through sunlight, free and available in great abundance throughout the world.

It should also be remembered that the system can be designed to power other activities in the field, further increasing the savings we can achieve.

Another advantage is that the electricity we generate and consume is 100% clean.

Unlike diesel generators, solar panels do not emit polluting gases (CO2) or any other type of pollutant into the environment.

Therefore, investing in a solar-powered irrigation system solves two problems at once: reduce electricity costs and contribute to a more sustainable environment.

How much does a solar power project cost for irrigation?

The photovoltaic project must be designed exclusively for each case.

Therefore, to know the cost of the ideal system for your case, you should request a quote from a company specializing in solar energy. It is recommended that you contact two different companies so that you can compare budgets and choose the one that best suits your needs.

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