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Solar energy is the energy force that sustains life on earth for all plants,
animals and humans. The earth receives this radiant energy from the sun in form of
electromagnetic waves, which the sun continually emits into space.
The flow of the sun power reaching the earth is typically about 1000 watts per
square meter (w/m2) although availability varies with location and time of year.
Solar energy is a renewable source that is inexhaustible and is locally
available. It is a clean energy source that allows for local energy independence.
Electricity can be produced from sunlight through direct heating of fluids to
generate steam for large-scale centralized electrical energy (Solar thermal electrical
generation) or alternatively, through the process of Photovoltaic, which can be
applied in either a centralized or decentralized fashion.
Photovoltaic cells are regarded as one of the major technologies towards a
sustainable energy supply and the key to successful photovoltaic installation is to use
quality components that has long-life expectancy and requires minimal maintenance.

Photovoltaic cells are devices that use the photovoltaic effect of semi-
conductors to generate direct – current (D.C) electrical energy from the radiant
energy of the sun.
Photovoltaic cells are made up of semi-conducting materials most commonly
SILICON, coated with special additives. When light strikes the cell, electrons are
knocked loose from the silicon atom and flow in a built – in-circuit producing
electricity. Photovoltaic cells are electrically connected and encapsulated as a
module. P.V modules are designed to have a sheet of glass on the front side with a
resin barrier behind, allowing light to pass while protecting the semi-conductors from
elements like rain, hail stones e.t.c.
Photovoltaic cells are designed to absorb as much light as possible and are
interconnected in series and/or parallel electrical connections to produce desired
voltages and currents. Connecting cells in parallel will yield higher amperage while
connecting them in series increases the voltage output. In other words, a P.V module
is a combination of P.V cells wired together in series or/and parallel with the purpose
of generating a specific current and voltage at a given level of irradiance. An array of
solar panels converts solar energy into usable amount of direct current (d.c)
Optionally, the d.c produced by the P.V array is supplied to an INVERTER,
which converts the d.c electricity to 220Volts A.C electric power. The power output of
a P.V array is given in WATTS or KILOWATTS but in order to calculate the energy
needed by an equipment, a measurement in Watt-hour per day is used. Note that if a
P.V array is designed to produce 50V but the load to be used only requires 30V, the
load will only draw 30V from the P.V array even though the array is able to produce
more voltages. The remaining electricity that is not used may be recycled and reused
in other facilities.


Photons from the radiant rays of the sun hit the photovoltaic panels and are
absorbed by the silicon material and this action generates electron-hole pairs. Thus,
when photons are absorbed, its energy is given to an electron in the crystal lattice.
Usually, this electron will be in the valence bond and tightly bond in covalent
bounding between neighboring atoms, hence, unable to move far.
The energy given to it by the photons “excites” it into the conduction band
where it is free to move around within the semi-conductor. This entire process means
that the negatively charged electrons are knocked loose from their atoms, and this
allows them to flow through the material to produce electricity.
The complementary positively charged holes are also created during this
process and they flow in the opposite direction with respect to the electrons in the
silicon solar panel.


To understand the electronic behaviour of a solar cell, it is useful to create a
model, which is electrically equivalent, and is based on discrete electrical
components whose behaviors’ are well known. A solar cell may be modeled by a
current source in parallel with a diode. A Shunt resistant and a series resistant
component are also added to the model.
A P.V cell may operate over a wide rage of voltages and currents. By
increasing the resistive load on an irradiated cell from zero (a short circuit) to a high
value (an open circuit), one can determine the maximum electrical power output that
the cell delivers at that level of irradiation. It is given as

Pm = V x I (in watts)


A P.V cell energy conversion efficiency is the percentage of the power
converted (from absorbed light to electrical energy) and collected when a solar cell is
connected to an electrical circuit. It is given as
n = Pm x 100
E x Ac
Where Pm – Maximum power point in watts
E - Light irradiance in w/m2
Ac - Surface area of solar cell in m2

This is defined as the maximum power point divided by the open circuit voltage
Voc and the short circuit current Isc. It is given as
FF = Pm
Voc x Isc


As mentioned earlier, solar energy is a renewable source that is inexhaustible,
locally available and also allows for energy independence. Solar energy and its
applications are used in areas such as
- Orbiting satellite and space crafts
- Solar electric generation
- Radiotelephones and roadside emergency telephones in remote locations
- Solar cooking
- Solar automobiles
- Calculators and wristwatches
- Solar water pumping.
- The use of photovoltaic in solar systems accounts for long life expectancy
of the system (more than 20 years).
- Solar facilities operated with little maintenance or intervention after initial
- Solar power is pollution free.
- Solar electric generation is economically competitive where grid connection
or fuel transportation is difficult, costly or impossible e.g satellites, remote
locations, ocean vessels etc.
- P.V cells produce d.c which must be converted to A.C before using with
A.C appliances
- To get enough energy for applications, a larger number of P.V cells are
needed. This increases the cost.
- Solar cells are expensive, and require a large initial capital when


Solar Water Pumping systems are very economical and effective when using
Photovoltaic’s in remote areas where other power supplies are not available and the
use of P.V water pumps has been greatly employed because of its simplicity,
reliability and operations with almost no maintenance.
Thousands of solar pumps are working throughout the world, and they
produce best during sunny weather when the need for water is greatest.
P.V water pumps are similar to any other pumping system, only that the power
source is solar energy.

All P.V Pumps have their rated power and flow rates. The major factors to be
considered before designing a P.V pump system include.
- The current voltage demand of the pump.
- The depth of the water source and height of storage tank
- The mechanical work done by the pump
- The desired flow rate.
- The cost of the system.

For more sophisticated designs, the following factors are considered and they
- The water temperature
- The pipeline pressure allowance
- The electrical and heat losses
- The pump characteristics
These factors listed for the sophisticated design are not always required when
designing a P.V pump, but they serve as a reference guide to understand the
principles of solar water pumping.


To determine the flow rate required by a pump system, the equation below is
Cubic meter per hour (m3/h) = Cubic meter per day
Available peak sun hour per day

Peak sun hours refer to the average equivalent hours of full-sun energy
received per day. It varies with the location and the season of the year.
There are also other units of measurement, which is used to calculate the flow
rate of a pump system. They are
- The imperial gallon per minute (Ig/m)
- The U.S gallon per minute (Usg/m)
- The liter per minute (L/m)
- The Kilogram per second (Kg/s) (which is used at standard temperature).
The following table shows the conversion values of the different flow rate units
(assuming the water pressure remains constant).


Main Unit Other Units
m3/h Ig/m Usg/m L/m Kg/s
1 3.66 4.39 16.67 0.277


Main Unit Other Units
Ig/m Usg/m L/m Kg/s M3/h
1 1.2009 4.5 0.075 0.27


Main Unit Other Units
Usg/m Ig/m M3/h L/m Kg/s
1 0.833 0.23 3.8 0.06


Main Unit Other Units
L/m Ig/m Usg/mh M3/h Kg/s
1 0.22 0.27 0.06 0.0166


Main Unit Other Units
Kgls Ig/m Usg/m M3/h L/m
1 13.33 16.67 3.70 60.24

Work example – A pump provides 3.40m3 of water in a day with 10 hours as the
available peak sun hours. The flow rate of the pump will be

Flow rate = Cubic Meter per day

Available peak sun hours per day
= 0.34m3/h
Converting 0.3m3/h to the other flow rate units will give 5.7L/m, 1.26Ig/m,
1.5Usg/m and 0.1kg/s.


The Photovoltaic pump can be classified into a D.C pump or an A.C pump.
The D.C pump is specially designed to utilize D.C electric power from the P.V array
while the A.C pump uses the A.C electric power from an inverter that is connected to
a P.V circuit.
Further classifications of the P.V pump are into the surface pump and
the submersible pump. The surface pump is one that is mounted at ground level (e.g
a shallow pond). Surface pumps can only draw water from depths of about 6m, but
they can push it far uphill. The submersible pump on the other hand, could be used
as a surface pump or lowered into water. It can draw water from depths exceeding
100m below ground level. These classifications of the P.V water pumps have led to
the enormous designs of pumps by various manufacturers.


The D.C pump is a low voltage pumps that is designed to operate at reduced
power. The D.C power received by the pump from the D.C array is controlled by two
parameters, which are
- The solar irradiance available to the modules.
- The current and voltage demand of the pump.
The voltage production of a P.V cell remains practically constant under all levels
irradiance, but the current produced is directly proportional to the level of irradiance
available at any given point in time.
A pump controller is an electronic device used in most D.C pumps and it acts
like an automatic transmission that helps the pump to start, and also not to stall in
weak sunlight. The pump controller supplies the pump with the required D.C electric

There is need to use a SOLAR TRACKER to tilt the P.V array as the sun moves
across the sky. This increases the daily energy gained by the P.V array. Tracking
works best in clear and sunny weather and is less effective in cloudy climates.


It is most economical to pump water and store in a tank when using the D.C
pump. While storing the water in a tank, a float switch can turn the pump off when the
water reaches an appreciable level to prevent overflow.

Work example –A submersible D.C pump is designed to lift water from a well
of 50 meters to an elevated storage tank of 30m. What will be the power required by
the pump to lift 20m3 of water in a day. (Taking available peak sun hours to be 8
hours and acceleration due to gravity to be 9.8m/s2).

Flow rate of the pump = cubic meter per day
Available peak sun hours per day
= 20
= 2.5m3/h
At constant water pressure
1m3/h = 0.277kg/s
Flow rate of pump = 0.7kg/s
Acc due to gravity = 9.8m/s2
Total height (from the well to the elevated tank) will be
(50+30) m = 80m
...Power = flow rate x Total height x acc due to gravity
= (0.7x80x 9.8) = 548.8J/s
The power needed by the pump is 548.8J/s and the system will require a P.V
array that will produce 548.8watts [1J/s = 1 Watt]. It is important to add an extra 20%
power to the array to prevent the losses associated with the system. So an array of
570watts in direct sunlight (at solar irradiance of 1000w/m2) will operate the pump


- It work during low light conditions at reduced power without stalling or
Overheating (they pump water using absolute minimal electric power).
- It is easy to install and require no special skills.
- It is less expensive than A.C pumps
- Lift capacity is maintained even while pumping slowing.
- It pumps water at very slow rate.
- There is great need for storage of water into tanks.
- A long period of time is required to pump sufficient water.


Pumping water with a high flow rate is achieved by using A. C Pump. This
involves the operation of a P.V array, a charge controller, a storage battery, an
inverter and an A.C pump motor.

A charge controller is an essential part of nearly all power systems that
charges batteries. Its purpose in the P.V Pump circuit is to keep the batteries or the
inverter properly fed and safe during the period of operation. The basic functions of
the charge controller are to Block Reverse Current and Prevent Overcharge.

- BLOCKING REVERSE CURRENT: In an A. C pump system, the P.V

arrays supplies current to a battery or an inverter in one direction. At night,
the arrays may pass a bit of current in the reverse direction, causing a
slight discharge from the battery /inverter. Although the potential loss is
minor, but it is easy to prevent using the charge controller.
In most charge controllers, current passes through a semi-conductor e.g. a
transistor, which acts like a valve to control the current and allows the current to pass
only in one direction. In other controllers, an electromagnetic coil opens and closes a
mechanical switch, which is called a relay. The relay switches off at night to block
reverse current.
Note that when using a very small array relative to the size of the battery, a
charge controller might not be needed but instead, a blocking diode will be used to
block the reverse current.

- PREVENTING OVERCHARGE: When a battery reaches its full charge, it will

no longer store incoming energy. If there is continuous flow of energy at full rate, the
battery voltage gets too high. This will cause the battery to over heat and the
excessive voltage can stress the electrical appliances or cause the inverter to shut
Preventing overcharge is simply the ability of the charge controller to reduce
the flow of energy that is supplied to the battery when the battery has gained a
specific amount of voltage. When the battery voltage drops due to electrical usage,
the charge controller allows the battery to reach its maximum possible charge. This is
called VOLTAGE REGULATION and is the most essential function of a charge

Most deep well pumps require 220VAC. This will initiate the use of an inverter
with a P.V pump system. An inverter converts D.C to A.C electric power and also
changes the voltage (D.C flows in a single direction, A.C alternates it’s directions
many times per second).
An inverter is a power adapter. Pump systems using inverters employs high
flow rates of pumping water. The power output of an inverter is rated in watts.
Before selecting an inverter to be used in pump circuit, one should know the
basic functions, capabilities, and limitations of the inverter. There are three levels of
power rating exhibited by an inverter, which are.
- Continuous rating: The amount of power the inverter can handle for an
indefinite period of time.
- Limited time rating: The higher number of watts that the inverter can handle
for a defined period of time.
- Torque capacity: The inverters ability to start the pump.
An inverters specification should define these ratings in relation with the
ambient temperature (the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere) because if
the inverter gets too hot, it will shut off.
An A.C Pump can be real power hog and required a high amount of current
when starting.
The table below shows the power rating of a modified sine wave inverter
required by A.C submersible pumps.

Table 6
HP of pump Power of pump Min rating sine wave Min running power (Watts)
(Watts) invert
0.5 372 2.0 970
0.75 558 2.4 1325
1.0 745 2.8 1600
1.5 1117 4.5 2150
2.0 1490 5.0 2650

Minimum continuous power rating of an sine wave inverter to start an A.C

submersible well pump (with more additional loads).

An advantage of using an inverter with the P. V circuits is that it can be used to pump
water and at the same time, operate other electrical appliances.
Inverter manufacturers always specify the type and size of inverter that would
be most suitable for an operation.


- It pumps water at higher flow rate than water.
- It is used to pump larger volumes of water
- Other electrical appliances may be used simultaneously with the pump
motor even when it is pumping water.
- It is more expensive than the D.C pumps

- It is operate with a high amount of power than the D.C pumps

- The operation of A.C pump is dependent on the inverter


There is no limit to how large solar pump systems can be built. Proper
installation of quality P.V pump systems can provide over 20 years of reliable and
continuous services and it is beneficial areas like livestock watering, irrigation and
domestic water usage.
For instance, the operation of a 400watts D.C submersible pump lifting water
from a well of 50m to an elevated storage tank of 30m with a flow rate of 1.80m 3/h
(0.5kg/s at constant water pressure). In a 10 hour sunny day, the pump will lift 18.0m3
of water. This will be enough to supply several families, or 150 head of cattle or 200
fruit trees.
Small solar pumps may be installed without heavy equipments or special skills.
However, larger P.V pump system using the solar tracker will reduce the number of
P.V arrays to be installed.


The basic steps taken to prevent the P.V water pump from damage are.

Step 1- Accurate calculations of the size of the P.V module, the desired flow
rate, the depth of water source e.t.c has to be determined before
purchasing a pump.

Step 2- Pumps should not be mounted above the water source so as to avoid

Step 3- Maintaining the draw down level of the water source. The draw down is
the amount of water that is available above the pump intake. In
situations where the pump’s flow rate is greater than the natural refilling
rate of water back to its source, the water source will run short of water
and potentially cause damage to the pump.

Communities in remote to locations can now enjoy an easy way of supplying
Water for the purpose of livestock watering, irrigation and domestic water usage
because of the P.V pump systems. It might be optional to use a storage battery or an
elevated storage tank because solar energy will always be available even when the
water is not required. This has made solar water pumping to become cost competitive
when compared with other methods of pumping water.
Photovoltaic technology is continuously improving the power conversion
efficiency of the photovoltaic cells. The increase in photovoltaic cell efficiency will
reduce the cost of P.V modules, because power modules will produce the same
amount of power as a larger one.
In the future, solar energy and its applications will come into a widespread use
in power generation because of its availability operation with almost no maintenance
and a pollution free source of energy.

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National renewable energy Laboratory (USA). Reported timeline of

Solar cell conversion efficiency

Mark Hankins. Solar electric systems for Africa. Revised edition

Muhammed Harnur Rashid. Power electronics hand book. Power

electronics for renewable energy sources Revised edition.

Windy Dan Koff. Inverter sizing for submersible pump application

Gary H. P. 1987. Advances in solar energy technology. Volume 3.

Reidel publishing, Boston, M A.

Halcrow S. W and Partners. 1981. Small-scale solar powered

Irrigation pumping systems: technical and economic
Review UNDP project.

Florida Solar Energy Center. 1988. Photovoltaic design: Course

Manual. Cape Canaveral, FL.

Salameh Z., A. K. Milpur and F. Dagher. 1989. Controller gets the

last drop for Photovoltaic system. Solar today.

Dinh. K. 1988. A Passive Photovoltaic-Powered Solar Tracker.

Technical Bulletined. Dinh Company. Alachua, FL.