Reducing irrigation costs with solar pumps
Irrigated agriculture is big business in Australia, producing more than 20 per cent of the total value of Australian agricultural production. Traditionally, pumps are powered by diesel or electrical energy supplied from the grid. However, with the cost of solar panels decreasing and solar rebates available to offset costs, solar pumps have become a popular and economically realistic choice for irrigators and farmers.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 9.1 million megalitres of water was used to irrigate 2.2 million hectares of agricultural land in 2016-17, with the cost of pumping becoming a burden to irrigators.
Malcolm Eyre, Managing Director at Franklin Electric, said solar pumps have become popular because they offer reliable and affordable pumping, and are also climate friendly.
“Solar pumps have come a long way since they were first developed,” Malcolm said.
“There are now sizing options available for numerous agricultural water pumping applications, ranging from small-scale tasks such as remote stock watering to large-scale tasks like bulk water transfer and irrigation for broadacre cropping.”
Reducing energy costs
Malcolm said one of the biggest benefits of solar pumps is that they can help irrigators save on energy costs.
“With the cost of power increasing, the high cost of pumping water using electricity or diesel can be a burden, so irrigators have been turning to solar power as an alternative.
“Solar power gives them another option which is more cost effective and is scalable, giving irrigators the ability to expand their solar array to allow for greater water pumping if it is required.
“Solar pumps, such as Franklin Electric’s Fhoton SolarPAK and SubDrive SolarPAK, are on the cutting edge of design and innovation, having been optimised to provide the most water for the least amount of energy possible, which means irrigators can pump more water with less sunlight making them extremely energy efficient.”
Solar systems have the additional benefit that they can be integrated with diesel or mains power.
“Because of their flexibility, solar pumps can switch between solar power and electricity or diesel power to maintain constant power supply when there is limited sun exposure. Even if there is not enough solar power to fully run the pump, irrigators will still see a decrease in power charges,” Malcolm said.

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