PV Pumps


Technical Information

Case studies


Providing access to water is a critical community development task. In most areas, water is not readily available where it is needed for settlements or farming. Sooner or later, community, household, rangeland or agricultural planners must devise methods of supplying water on site. This means pumping it out of a borehole or well, or diverting it from a spring, lake, stream or river.

PV powered water pumps are increasingly common as off-grid solutions to water supply. In East Africa, there is an abundance of solar radiation with a corresponding increasing need to provide water for domestic and irrigation. Decreasing costs of PV modules mean that Photovoltaic pumping systems are becoming more economic.

Solar pumping systems consist of four major components:

  • PV array, which provides the power for pumping. Arrays are typically sized between 100 Wp to 5 kWp;
  • Power conditioning units which convey the PV power to the electric pump;
  • Pump set which is either placed in the well or next to the water supply;
  • Water storage and distribution system.

Battery storage is not essential in PV pumping systems, as water can be stored.

Solar water pumps are appropriate for household and community water supply, livestock watering as well as small-scale low-head irrigation. They are best suited for applications where head is medium or low (few PV pumps are deeper than 100m) and where water demand is steady but low (less than 200 m4/day).

Proper sizing and installation of systems is critical for optimum utilization given the relatively high cost of PV modules.

PV is preferable to diesel pumping when water requirements are low, sunshine is abundant, and when supplies of fuel are far away. Although PV and wind are both often lower cost than diesel, PV may be a better choice where there is little wind or where the installation location is not favorable to wind.

The number of installed PVP systems in the IGAD region is estimated that more than 200 systems installed. Grundfos pumps are the most widely installed.

A pumping system installed by BP Solar for ICRC in southern Sudan in 1989 is still operational. The Catholic Church has installed at least 20 PV pumps at schools and missions in Northern Kenya. Several PV pumping initiatives have been undertaken in the region, mainly by donor agencies, relief agencies and missionaries for irrigation, livestock watering and domestic use. Major suppliers have been BP, NAPS and Kenital.

Return to Household Energy Options page