The first three pilot irrigation systems that operate on solar power are currently installed in rural areas of Senegal in the framework of the Powering Agriculture, launched by USAID. These systems are called Smart Solar Irrigation, developed by engineers of the lab from Columbia University (SEL), will allow local farmers not only to automate watering crops, but also to do it with the least cost and with minimal impact on the environment.
Today among farmers in rural areas of Senegal is a widespread practice of hand-watering of plants, and not only because of the financial difficulties of purchasing and operating the fuel pump, but the high cost of diesel fuel in the country. Therefore, farmers often have to cut the crops, crops on dedicated lands. The use of sustainable irrigation pumps, solar powered could be the best solution, but as a rule, their value is even higher than petrol pumps. Given these challenges, engineers from SEL has developed a different more cost-effective model of irrigation management.
Irrigation system Smart Solar Irrigation is based on building a centralized solar plant, where one array of photovoltaic cells and system monitoring and control provide electricity separate pumps customers who pay only for what they use. In order to maintain costs at an affordable level, the irrigation system does not have a battery and only works when the sun shines.
Generated solar electricity is sold to farmers at pre-paid credit system similar to scratch card (scratch-card) for mobile phone, ensuring payment only for the consumed electricity. This preserves the autonomy of farmers use their own wells and pumps.
The first irrigation system Smart Irrigation Solar has solar panels with a capacity of 6.8 kW is already installed in the village of Dim. The system is equipped with a Central controller located in a small concrete building nearby, where he will serve as a micro-utility, supplying electricity to local farmers.
More information about Smart irrigation system Solar Irrigation from SEL can be found on the website of the Institute.