Introduction: Solar Water Pump

About: I'm an Electronics Engineer who likes to make Doze Lamps, Lumen Powered Thingamajigs, Almighty Brainy Buttons, Tweeting Weather Stations and share them on Instructables.

This Instructable will help you to setup a fully functional Solar Water Pumping System. The Solar Water Pump System can be used for residential water requirements and also for commercial uses. This system can also be used for irrigation of Agricultural Land. The Solar Panel Array can also be used without the water pump and can power your house or apartment. The Instructable will act as a guide in helping you understand the principles required to pump water using solar energy.


Solar Power

Photovoltaic(Solar) systems do not use any Fuel. They last for 20+ years. They are cost effective and are independent from a countries electricity grid. The cost of installation is almost the only cost. Solar Power is a Green Renewable energy that will produce electricity as long as the Sun rises every morning. Solar systems require low maintenance.

Why go for a Solar Water Pump System?

Well sunlight is free and abundant. Humans are dependent on water for survival. Inorder to obtain their daily water requirements we pump our water from wells, dams, rivers, ponds,etc. Since the system is OFF-Grid, it can always pump water even in an apocalypse.

Step 1: Economics, Viability & Applications

Solar Energy is a giant leap in the field of science which has enabled humans to produce clean energy. In this step I am going to give you a brief introduction into real economics, viability and applications of this Instructable.

Agriculture

Agriculture in developing nations isn't as efficient as it really should be. One of the main problems of agriculture is water management. Even developing nations which receive a good amount of water through rainfall fail to be efficient in the field of agriculture.

The initial investment of solar energy is high. Buts lets put it in a developing nation's agriculturists/farmers perspective. I have chosen my country India as the perfect example of the best beneficiary from the use of solar energy. EXAMPLE based on past experience:

The common farmer over here has to pay approximately Rs 50,000 to setup an electrical connection to his/her farm depending on how far the nearest village transformer/power distributor is from the farm. The farmer then has to buy a pump to irrigate his land which could cost the farmer between Rs 5,000 -35,000. The problem is in such areas Maintenance of Power lines is not carried out and there is high variation in the supplied voltage. This causes the pumps coil and windings to get damaged. This can lead to loss of efficiency or even total damage to the pump. Farmers who have batteries and inverters for their farms also suffer losses from the damage caused by voltage fluctuations to the inverters,etc. Therefore the farmer has to also spend additional revenue in buying replacement Pumps, inverters,etc.

Maintenance of the power lines has to be sometimes carried out by the farmer. Irregular power failures and power shortages causes major losses of agricultural output. Consider a 10 acre Cucumber crop plantation which should ideally yield a harvest of approximately 1000kg/day. Lets say due to a power outage, there is no power supplied to the farm for an entire day. This would lead to the crop not being watered for a day and could result in significant weight loss of the cucumbers. In country's such as India, farmers sell vegetables based on weight and hence any weight loss would result in significant losses. But all these problems can be solved by the implementation of a Solar Water Pump System.

In India, there are mainly two crops: Kharif(Monsoon Crops) & Rabi(Winter Crops). With the help of solar energy, I have been able to plant 4 different crops. i.e. 2 additional crops excluding the Kharif and Rabi crops. I have been able to irrigate a cucumber and watermelon crop in the middle of summer which also has significantly increased my profits from agriculture, something I wouldn't have been able to do without solar energy.

What about farmers belonging to developed nations?

Well apart from the above, farmers in developed nations can use solar energy for their sprinkler systems in their greenhouses. You can check out the graphs above to get an overview of the efficiency of solar water pump systems. They can also use for artificial lighting to grow saplings. I have also seen a Solar water pump systems being used in poultry(chicken) applications to cool the sheds and provide drinking water to the poultry birds.

Household/Domestic Applications

The solar water pump system can be used to pump drinking water in societies and buildings. The concept of 'Green Buildings' includes the use of solar water pump systems for the purpose of drinking water and other sanitary uses of water.

If you do not wish to use solar energy to pump water but instead to power your house, check out some of my other Instructables:

DIY Solar+Wind House

Apartment Solar System

Apocalypse Preparedness

Imagine if their is an apocalypse & aliens attack all power stations! Protect yourself from such events and install a Solar Water Pump System.

P.S: This application was included in view of the Apocalypse Preparedness Contest :)

Step 2: Parts & Skill List

Standard System

The specifications of the Metal Stand (Angle), Solar Capacity, Pump output have been optimised to my desired requirements and location. Hence depending on your purpose (Residential, Commercial or Agricultural) you can either change the output of the system by adding or subtracting the solar panels inorder to increase or decrease the production of electricity. Depending on the requirement and capacity of the system, the specifications and quantity of each part could defer. This Instructable will act as a standard guide which help you in understanding how to build the Solar Panel Stand, Estimating the Number of Panels & Other Parts required, Electrical Connections,etc. Hence you may have to buy parts according to your specific requirements. The main factors involved in choosing parts are: Solar Output, Cable Size, Pump: Power,voltage,current,speed,flow rate,efficiency and Pipe: Length, Diameter.

Parts

  1. Anti-Corrosion Paint.
  2. 4X 11ft I-beams.
  3. 2X 7ft I-beams.
  4. 3X 24.46ft C-channels.
  5. 2X19.63ft C-channels.
  6. 5X 20.84ft C-channels.
  7. 6X20.18ft C-channels.
  8. 21X Solar Panels
    • 280W
    • 35V
    • 1960X990X42 (mm)
  9. Solar Pump System Controller
    • Max Input Voltage: 238V
    • Output: 3-phase(60-240V0, 3kW)
  10. Solar Pump
    • Submersible
    • 3-phase
    • Output:22m^3/hr
  11. Cable (Depending on depth of well,etc)
  12. 6X Circuit Breakers.
  13. Concrete/Cement Mixture.

Tools

  1. Welding machine and welding rods.
  2. Screwdrivers.
  3. Drills.
  4. Wire Cutters.
  5. Digital Multimeter.
  6. Spirit Level Bottle.

Skills

  1. Basic Understanding of Electrical Wiring and Electronics.
  2. Basic Understanding of Structural Design.
  3. Basic Welding.

Step 3: Solar Panel Stand

The Solar Panel is a Metal framework consisting of I-beams and C-channel that help support the solar panel and keep them inclined at the required angle. In the next couple of steps, the Instructable will teach you how too setup the metal framework.

Solar Angle

But before you start building the metal stand or framework you must determine the optimum angle at which you must place you solar panels inorder to get the maximum efficiency from the solar system.

To get the best out of your photovoltaic panels, you need to angle them towards the sun. The optimum angle varies throughout the year, depending on the seasons and your location and this calculator shows the difference in sun height on a month-by-month basis.

Inorder to calculate the optimum angle I have used an online calculator which uses the location of the Solar Panel Array. Solar Panel Angle Calculator

Anti-Corrosion Paint

Before you start building the metal stand, you must paint all metal parts including I-beams, C-channel,etc with a layer of Anti-Corrosion/ Anti-Rust Paint. After doing so, you can add a layer of coloured paint to enhance the look of the Solar Panel Stand. By painting the metal stand you will prevent the metal from getting damaged due to corrosion.

3D Models/Layout Diagrams

Inorder to understand the design of the Solar Panel Stand, I have attached the 3D model and Layout diagram files.

Step 4: I-Beam Placement & Foundation

Once you have determined the optimum angle at which the solar panels must be placed at, you can start building the metal stand. In this step you will need to mix concrete for the foundation.

  1. Start by digging a hole into the ground of the dimensions: 2ft X 2ft X 2ft.
  2. Add some concrete into the hole and spread it evenly.
  3. Place the I-beam into the hole such that it is perpendicular to the surface. Ensure that the I-beam is vertical by using a Level Bottle.
  4. Once 2ft of the I-beam is placed inside the hole vertically, fill the hole completely with cement.
  5. Do the same for another I-beam separated from the first I-beam at a distance of 24.46ft
  6. The total height of each I-beam from the ground surface is 11ft.

Step 5: Adding Lower C-channel

In this step, you will attach a 24.46ft C-channel to the two I-beams.

  1. Ensure the C-channel is parallel to the ground surface with the help of a Level Bottle.
  2. Bolt each end of the C-channel to the I-beams.
  3. Make sure you use Stainless Steel nuts and bolts.

Step 6: Adding 7ft I-beam & Top C-channel

In this step you will add 2 X 7ft I-beams on top of the two 11ft I-beams. You will also attach a 24.46ft C-channel to the I-beams. The procedure is specified in the layout diagram. If you do not wish to add an '11ft+7ft' I-beam design you can instead add an 18ft I-beam.

  1. Place the lower Base-plate of the 7ft I-beam on top of the higher Base-plate of the 11ft I-beam.
  2. Make sure that the 7ft I-beam is perpendicular to the ground surface with the help of a Level Bottle.
  3. Follow the same steps for the placement of the Second 7ft I-beam.
  4. Bolt the Base-plates of the I-beams with Stainless Steel nuts and bolts or weld them together.
  5. Attach both sides of the 24.46ft C-channel to the top of the two 7ft I-beams respectively with the help of Stainless Steel nuts and bolts.

Step 7: Adding the Remaining I-beams

In this step you will place 2 X 11ft I-beams at the remaining two corners.

  1. The procedure for the placement and foundation is same as that of the first two I-beams.
  2. Ensure that the I-beams are perpendicular to the ground surface using a Level Bottle.

Step 8: Adding Lower C-channel

In this step you will be using 2X 19.63ft C-channels and also 1X 24.46ft C-channel.

  1. Start by attaching either side of one 19.63ft C-channel to the top of the Lower I-beams by bolting them together. Refer to the Layout diagram.
  2. Do this for the other 19.63ft C-channel.
  3. Next attach either side of the 24.46ft C-channel to the the top of the Lower I-beams by bolting them together. Refer to the Layout Diagram.
  4. Ensure that the C-channel are parallel to the ground surface with the help of a Level Bottle.

Step 9: Adding the Inclined C-channel

In this step you will be using 5X 20.84ft C-channel. This step also involves welding.

  1. Start by placing one of the C-channel at each end as shown in the layout diagram.
  2. Next place one of the C-channel at the centre as shown in the layout diagram.
  3. Place one C-channel between the Centre and outermost C-channel on either side.

Weld all the joints using a Welding Machine. Use all necessary welding and safety equipment. Keep a fire extinguisher around incase of a fire.

Note: If you do not wish to weld, you can attach the inclined C-channel by bolting it to the entire structure.

Step 10: Additional Supporting C-channel

In this step you can either use C-channel or Aluminium Box Channel. In this step you will be using 6x 20.18ft C-channel.

  1. Start by placing the C-channel from one side of the structure horizontally such that they are parallel to each other as shown in the layout diagram.
  2. The spacing between two C-channel should be 3ft.
  3. One placed and aligned properly as shown in the layout diagram, weld or bolt them to the structure.

Step 11: Adding the Solar Panels

In this step you will be using 21 solar panels.

Solar Panel Specifications:
1. Power: 280W.
2. Voltage at Pmax: 35V.
3. Length X Breadth X Height(mm): 1960 X 990 X 42.

Detailed specifications of the solar panels are given in the solar panel datasheet.

1. Start by bolting the solar panels to the C-channel.

2. The distance between two panels on each side will be 0.25ft.

3. Refer to the Layout Diagram for more details.

Step 12: Connecting the Solar Panels

1. Start by opening the Solar Panel connector Box.
2. Use a multimeter to determine the polarity of the solar panel.
3. Form one string of solar panels by connecting 7 solar panels in series. Form 3 such strings.

Step 13: Electrical Connections


Before connecting the Solar array to the Solar Pump System Controller we must connect a Circuit Breaker(CB) between them.

1. Place 6 Circuit Breakers(CB) in a PVC Box.
2. Connect the Positive wire from each string to one end of a separate CB.(Input of CB)
3. Connect the Negative wire from each string to one end of a separate CB.(Input of CB)
4. Connect the output of the 3 Positive CB's together.
5. Connect the output of the 3 Negative CB's together.
6. Now connect these to the inputs of a screw terminal.
7. Connect additional wires from the output of the screw terminals to the input 'Power IN' of the Solar Pump System Controller.
8. Connect wires from the 'L1,L2,L3' & 'Ground' terminals of the solar pump system controller to the matching numbers on the pump leads. Note: Other combinations may cause reverse rotation!
9. Some pumps come along with additional connections such as Low Water Probe, Float Switch, Battery System,etc. Follow the manual instructions for more details.
10. Connect the Water output of the pump to a long pipe and ensure that it is secured properly. Lower the pump into the water source and switch it on.3

Step 14: Solar Pump System Controller

The Solar Pump System controller is the brain of the entire project. It basically regulates the current supplied to the pump from the solar panels.

The Power IN,L1,L2,L3 and Ground connector terminals are in the controller.

Most Solar Pump System Controllers come along with LED indicators. Given below are the descriptions of the LED indicator functions of the controller that I have used.

System(green)

When the LED is Green, the controller is switched on and the power source is present. In low-power conitions, the light may show even if there is not enough power to run the pump.

Pump ON(green)

Motor is turning. Sequence of flashing indicates pump speed. Pump speed (RPM) can be read of the flashing sequence of the Pump ON LED as follows:

LED ON > 900

1 flash > 1,200

2 flashes > 1,600

3 flashes > 2,000

4 flashes > 2,400

5 flashes > 2,800

If the Pump Overloads, the LED will change to red.

Source Low(red)

If the water source has dropped below the level of the low water probe. After the water level recovers, the pump will restart, but this light will slowly flash until the sun goes down, power is interrupted, or the power switch is reset. This indicates that the water source ran low at least once since the previous off/on cycle.

Tank Full(red)

Pump is turned off by action of the remote float switch.


Step 15: Solar Water Pump

Pump Specifications:

  1. Submersible Pump.
  2. 3-Phase.
  3. Flow Rate: 22m^3/hr

The pump basically uses the power supplied from the solar panel array inorder to pump water from the source. Mostly the pumps come with four wires: 3 wires for each phase and one wire for Ground.

The Motor Power, Motor Voltage, Motor current, Motor Speed, Flow Rate, Efficiency, etc are vary from different pumps and manufacturers. Choose a suitable pump depending on your requirement.

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