Electricity generated by solar panels (photovoltaic power) has been used for powering pumps for many years but in the past these systems have suffered from high capital costs, low power and uncertain reliability. Increasing concern over climate change and the environment; ever rising oil costs with continuing development of solar systems have all combined to make solar power increasingly viable for some situations. The technology is now widely used in remote locations, for example Australia, where it can provide water with minimal supervision. At the current state of development it should be considered as a complementary technology, which fits – in terms of power and number of people it can serve – between hand pumps and diesel powered pumps. This technical brief looks at the currently available products from two of the major manufacturers – Grundfos and Mono Pumps (Australia). It endeavours to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of solar power and identify situations where it could be used and the data that needs to be collected before deciding if it is a suitable power source. The brief is not intended as a design manual because it is felt that at this stage this is best done by passing all the field data to the manufacturers for them to make a system selection.
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