Photovoltaic panels can help pump water

Pumping water using photovoltaic panels is common in ranching country.

Pumping water using photovoltaic panels is common in ranching country.

Direct water pumping uses the sun’s rays to lift water into water tanks from wells, dugouts, ponds, or streams, and away from the source.

This provides easy access to the water for the livestock and eliminates some problems caused when animals have to wade into their water source, such as erosion of stream banks.

Direct photovoltaic pumping systems are not limited to the role of stock watering. Pumping from wells to elevated cisterns and then using gravity to provide water pressure for the house or cabin can provide for human consumption.

Irrigation operations also benefit from direct solar pumping systems, pumping water when the sun shines, and thusly when it is needed most.

If the property has significant elevation change, direct water pumping can be used for energy storage, filling tanks that can use the water to run turbines for those dark or foggy hours encountered in off grid systems.

Considerations for installation of a photovoltaic direct pumping system take into account the distance and elevation between source and tank, friction losses in system piping caused by that distance, the amount of water required to be moved, and design intent of the system.

Lift capacity for specific pumps is provided by the manufacturer, and is calculated from the surface of the water, dugout, stream, or the draw down level in the water well.

Pressure generated by elevation change or TDH, total dynamic head, is calculated at 1 lb. per 2.3 feet of lift or 9.8 kPa / meter. To determine friction losses incurred by the piping charts are available at plumbing suppliers or online.

Power requirements are calculated from the amount of water needed on a daily basis, the total lift from source to tank, and the distance between pump and tank.

In stock watering, cow calf units and days of service are also necessary to calculate the size of the system.

Switching equipment is necessary to shut down the pump when the tank is full, or in the case of irrigation systems, when the amount of moisture required has been pumped.

Tanks size has to be large enough to provide storage for days with low solar power availability caused by cloud or fog.

Pump control units provide the switching, and linear current boosters, (LCB). LCB’s modulate the power coming photovoltaic allowing the pump to start under lower light conditions when a system without an LCB would not.

Battery backup can also be installed into the system for the more critical applications of home or stock watering.

The simplest systems consist of a water source, a floating surface pump, hoses, and photovoltaic panels.

Advanced systems would have pump controllers, charge controllers, battery backup, submersible pumps with high lift capacity, and filtering capabilities for the water before it enters the storage tank.

Direct photovoltaic pumping systems have a proven track record, can serve a number of applications, and form a viable alternative to generators or the installation of grid power.

Lorne Oja is an energy consultant, power engineer and a partner in a company that installs solar panels, wind turbines and energy control products in Central Alberta. He built his first off-grid home in 2003. His column appears every second Friday in the Advocate. Contact him at:

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) falls on his knees as he skates around Ottawa Senators defenceman Artem Zub (2) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, February 18, 2021. The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews when they take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto star Auston Matthews won’t play as Leafs face Oilers

EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs will be without star centre Auston Matthews… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Wetaskiwin RCMP say a Maskwacis man died after he was struck by a vehicle. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Clare’s Law in Saskatchewan used handful of times; Mounties review their role

REGINA — A first-of-its-kind law in Canada meant to warn those at… Continue reading

The Magpie river in Quebec is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Boreal River MANDATORY CREDIT
Quebec river granted legal rights as part of global ‘personhood’ movement

MONTREAL — With its kilometres of rapids and deep blue waters winding… Continue reading

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Most Read