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Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Feasibility of Solar Powered Pumping Systems


for Deep Tubewells in Pakistan
Dr. Shahid Ahmad and Irfan Ali

Natural Resources Division


Pakistan Agricultural Research Council
May 2011
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Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural
Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Feasibility of Solar Powered Pumping Systems for Deep


Tubewells in Pakistan
Dr. Shahid Ahmad and Irfan Ali
Motivation
NRD-PARC (Natural Resources Division of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council) during late
2008 identified issues of water scarcity, rising tariff of electricity and increased prices of fossilfuel (diesel) for planning future research agenda. Extended load shedding, voltage fluctuations
and power failures have forced farmers to shift to diesel prime-movers. But recently in 2011, the
higher rise in diesel prices has forced farmers to ask for alternative sources of energy for pumping
groundwater. Higher cost of pumping groundwater has affected profitability of irrigated
agriculture. Hundreds of farmers contacted NRD and made queries regarding alternate energy
sources. Solar and wind energy require higher capital investment and it is currently beyond the
reach of farmers until these are linked with energy efficient pumps and drip irrigation. Drip
irrigation is the only option where one can afford the use of solar energy for areas where shallow
groundwater is available. For deep wells of Balochistan and other areas outside the Indus basin,
deep well pumping is now uneconomical both with electric power and diesel fuel.
Feasibility of solar powered pumping systems is required especially for deep wells in conjunction
with drip irrigation. The current briefing is aimed to provide feasibility of capital cost of solar
powered pumping systems for deep wells and options for cost-effective development of solar
powered pumps in Pakistan.
Currently, there are over 1.0 million diesel operated pumping systems in the country, as per
Pakistan Agricultural Statistics, 2010. The farmers owning these systems even in shallow
groundwater areas will face serious problem of cost-effectivity of pumping systems with rising
prices of diesel fuel.
Over 16000 deep tubewells in Balochistan are performing due to heavy subsidy on electric tariff.
The provincial government is facing difficulty in providing subsidy and after the 18th Amendment;
the federal government may not be in a position to share 40% of the subsidy and WAPDA 30% of
the subsidy. If 70% subsidy load is transferred to the province, it will not be possible for the
provincial government to allocate this huge resource for the subsidy on electricity. Important to
mention, that the amount of annual subsidy on electric tariff for 16000 tubewells is more than
annual ADP of the province of Balochistan.
The future option is to develop fractional tubewells linked with drip irrigation to keep the initial
capital cost as low as possible. The past claims have been largely for very small discharge solar
pumps designed for domestic water supply pumping shallow groundwater. Claims for low cost
solar systems yet have to prove their worth for agricultural purposes.

1.

Solar Powered Deep Well Pumping System Conventional Systems

Conventional electric powered centrifugal pumps for deep wells are named as submersible pumps
and the same are now being used with solar energy. The modern submersible pump is not energy
efficient (Figure 1) compared from the worlds energy efficient direct displacement pumps
normally used for pumping oils. Two options have been developed for pumping groundwater using
solar powered submersible pumps and are given as under:
Option #1: 7 to 8 litres per second discharge which is equivalent to a 3 inch delivery
tubewell flowing full and with pump setting depth of 250 feet

Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Option #2: 3 to 5 litres per second discharge which is equivalent to a 3 inch delivery
tubewell flowing partially or full with 2.5 inch diameter pipe and with pump setting depth
of 500 feet

Figure 1. Solar powered submersible pump (Courtesy: Vortex Engineering Services, Islamabad
www.vortexengineering.com.pk)
1.1.

Pump Characteristics for Option #1

There is variation in discharge of solar powered pump unlike of the pump operating with
electricity or diesel fuel. The large variation in discharge from 8 to 26 m3/hour is primarily due to
variation in light intensity. The solar output is directly a function of light intensity as the
photovoltaic cell operates on the principle of light intensity (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Variations in discharge of solar pump at 250 feet pump setting (Courtesy: Vortex
Engineering Services, Islamabad www.vortexengineering.com.pk)
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Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Pump characteristics in terms of power input, discharge and pump setting depth are given in
Figure 3. Changes in power availability affect the discharge.

Figure 3. Pump characteristics in terms of power availability, discharge and pump setting
depth (Courtesy: Vortex Engineering Services, Islamabad www.vortexengineering.com.pk)

Figure 4. Relationship of current and voltage for the solar pump (Courtesy: Vortex
Engineering Services, Islamabad www.vortexengineering.com.pk)

Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings
1.2.

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Pump Characteristics for Option #1

There is variation in discharge of solar powered pump unlike of the pump operating with
electricity or diesel fuel. The large variation in discharge varying from 1.2 to 8.7 m3/hour is
primarily due to variation in light intensity. The solar output is directly a function of light intensity
as the photovoltaic cell operates on the principle of light intensity (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Variations in discharge of solar pump at 500 feet pump setting (Courtesy: Vortex
Engineering Services, Islamabad www.vortexengineering.com.pk)
Pump characteristics in terms of power input, discharge and pump setting depth are given in
Figure 6. Changes in power availability affect the discharge.

Figure 6. Pump characteristics in terms of power availability, discharge and pump setting
depth (Courtesy: Vortex Engineering Services, Islamabad www.vortexengineering.com.pk).
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Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Pump characteristics in terms of power input, discharge and pump setting depth are given in
Figure 7. Changes in power availability affect the discharge.

Figure 7. Relationship of current and voltage for the solar pump (Courtesy: Vortex
Engineering Services, Islamabad www.vortexengineering.com.pk)
1.3.

Prices of Solar Pump

The prices of these two options were collected from two reputable firms in the country providing
imported systems. The prices of solar powered pumping systems cant be generalized or verified
as the suppliers are asking for price without rationalization based on power and water discharge.
The details of the prices for pumps for the two options as quoted by the firms are presented as
under:
1.3.1.

Prices of Solar Pump by EBR Energy Pakistan Pvt. Limited

Option # 1
Pump Discharge
Pump Setting Depth
Price (million Rs.)

= 147 m3/day = 6.9 lps


= 250 ft
= 5.9

Option # 2
Pump Discharge
Pump Setting Depth
Price (million Rs.)

= 70 m3/day = 3.3 lps


= 500 ft
= 6.9

Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings
1.3.2.

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Prices of Solar Pump by Vertex Engineering & Services

Option # 1
Pump Discharge
Pump Setting Depth
Price (million Rs.)

= 176 m3/day = 8.3 lps


= 250 ft
= 6.3

Option # 2
Pump Discharge
Pump Setting Depth
Price (million Rs.)

= 101 m3/day = 4.7 lps


= 500 ft
= 6.2

1.4.

Cost Effectivity of Solar Pumps for Deep Wells Feasibility Scenarios

The analysis of cost of solar powered submersible pumping systems for deep wells indicated that
cost of these pumps will be between Rs. 6 to 7 million for:
Pump discharge of 7-8 litres per second and pump setting depth at 250 feet; or
Pump discharge of 3-5 litres per second and pump setting depth of 500 feet.
The pump setting depth of 500 feet is common in Balochistan as drilling is being done almost over
1000 feet. This shows that maximum discharge will be equivalent to 3 inch tubewell.
This is a high cost pumping system and outside the reach of the farmers and government is also not
in a position to provide subsidy at so high level. Therefore, traditional solar powered pumping
systems are not suitable for surface irrigation at all.
The only possibility for demonstration and economic evaluation is to install a pump of 1.5 litre per
second discharge at pump setting depth of 500 feet. This pump will provide 3 litres per second at
250 ft pump setting depth. The cost of this pump is expected to be around Rs. 2.5 million as a
complete unit.
At 250 ft pump setting depth the pump will provide drip irrigation to an orchard of 10 acres with
300 plants per acre. Whereas the pump of almost similar cost, at 500 feet pump setting depth, will
provide drip irrigation to 5 acres of orchards with 300 deciduous plants in environments of
Balochistans highlands. The plants include apples, cherry, peaches, plum, etc. For almonds and
olives the orchards area will increase due to low water requirement of these plants.

2.

Jack Pump Worlds Energy Efficient Pump for Deep Wells

2.1.

The Technology

The weight balancing Jack Pump is the latest technology in lifting oil, gas or deep waters using
solar power. In fact, the term lift does not truly apply, in that it does not "lift" fluid like the
conventional pump. Looking at how the pump cycles with the standard rod pump and compare it
with the new technology of the down-stroke pump. In the down stroke pump, there is a tubular
barrel with a sealing plunger, which is slightly longer than the barrel. With the start of the up
stroke, the traveling valve on the plunger is closed. The standing valve opens and fluid fills the
barrel as the plunger rises. With the start of the down stroke the standing valve closes and the
travelling valve opens. As the barrel is being filled with the plunger, the fluid is being displaced
from the barrel through the plunger into the tubing string, which pressures up, opening the check
valve on the flow line, pushing fluid to the tank. Instead of using horsepower to lift fluid, it uses
the weight of the rods to displace it. On the next up stroke the fluid in the tubing is static (no fluid
from the barrel is being added to the tubing) all it does to load the barrel. Load on the up stroke7

Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

and displace on the down stroke. The difference between the Down Stroke Pump and a standard
pump is not when the standing and travelling valves open and close, those are the same. The key is
when the fluid in the tubing is static (on the down stroke with a conventional pump and on the up
stroke with a Down Stroke Pump) and what you are doing the work with, horsepower or rod
weight.
These pumps are basically designed for pumping oil from thousands of feet. Therefore, technology
is globally tested for extremely deeper depths. The discharge of oil is much lower than agricultural
wells. Therefore, the challenge was how to increase the discharge of Jack Pump for agricultural
purposes.
2.2.

Benefits of Jack Pump Technology

The Jack Pump is the worlds most energy efficient pump. Some of the benefits of the weight
balancing Jack Pump are:
Reduced horsepower requirements due to direct displacement of pumping groundwater
and weight balancing.
Lower electric and diesel consumption costs
Higher pump efficiencies
Can handle solids much better than a conventional pump.
Better run times.
Reduced rod failures.
Can be made as weight balancing pump to further reduce energy requirement.
2.3.

Modification of Jack Pump for Water Pumping

Renewable energy is a potential source of energy for pumping water (domestic and stockwater) in
areas where electricity is not available and supply of quality diesel fuel is also a major concern.
Wind and solar energy can be used for pumping groundwater. An alternate system covering solar,
wind and diesel operated prime-movers has been developed by WRRI-NARC using Jack pump
during 1998-2000, which is energy efficient pump (Figure 8). Low cost wind mills can be used for
direct pumping of water in areas having sufficient wind. Windmills are now locally manufactured
and can provide a cost-effective mean of pumping groundwater to a depth of 150 feet (Figure 9).

Figure 8. Jack Pump with alternate energy sources at WRRI, NARC

Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2011

Figure 9. Windmill water pumping system (Coutesy: Marine Pvt. Ltd. Karachi)

3.

Way Forward

The way forward is to introduce solar powered drip irrigation systems for small farmers having
orchards of 5-10 acres. The submercible pump should be energy efficient having efficiency of
80% or more. These systems are now available in the market.
The point for consideration is that the ultimate solution is to develop technology of Jack Pump, the
direct displacement pump with weight balancing facility to pump larger quantities of water from
deeper depths using alternate energy sources solar, diesel, electric, etc. The energy requirement
is extremely low for this pump but its local manufacturing by a reputable firm is essential.
PARC has tested this technology and found feasible for any available source of energy diesel,
electric, solar, wind, etc. In fact, hybrid systems have to be developed because in certain days
sunlight and wind might not be available therefore, electric or diesel fuel can be used. Initially
these pumps are recommended initially for electric and diesel fuel and ultimately for solar. These
pumps are economical with electric and diesel fuel. Although the technology was developed a
decade ago, but the energy pricing is now such that there is now demand for an energy efficient
pump. The development of technology is dependent on the demand. In the beginning, these pumps
can be imported but for cost-effective installation idigenous development is essential.
Jack pump is basicall an oil pump and pumping from deeper depths is well established in teh
world. Only problem is that discharge has to be increased for agricultural purposes and pump is
not suitable for shallow depths. PARC research was focussed on increasing discharge and testing
for shallow depths. The pump tested at NARC is designed to pump 15.75 litres per second at a
shallow depth of 20 feet with 1 hp solar or electric prime mover and 3 hp of diesel engine. With
traditional pumps atleast 8 hp diesel engine is required to pump 15.75 litres per second or 0.56
cusecs, which is a medium size pump and commonly used in Punjab by small faremers.
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Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Managing Natural Resources for Sustaining Future Agriculture

Research Briefings

Volume (3), No (18), 2010

The NRD Research Briefings is a Series of


Issues, which are being prepared and
circulated to the policy and decision
makers, research and development experts,
NGOs and private sector in the country with
an objective to synthesize and disseminate
the research outputs related to natural
resources management research conducted
by the establishments of the Natural
Resources Division of PARC.
The NRD Research Briefings was
started during February 2009 to
present outputs of studies undertaken
by the Natural Resources Division of
PARC and its research establishments
including the MARC-Gilgit, AZRCQuetta, AZRIs at D. I. Khan, Bahawalpur
and Umerkot and national research
institutes at NARC. The comments and
suggestions can be sent at the following email
address:
Email: dr_shahidahmad2001@yahoo.com
Phone No. (Office): 92-51-9220385;
Cell Numbers: 0321-9561517
Address: Pakistan Agricultural Research
Council, P.O. Box 1031, Islamabad.
The scientists and engineers of NRD and its
establishments interested to get their papers
published in these Briefings can send their
files through email.
Reference: Ahmad, S. and I. Ali. 2011.
Feasibility of Solar Powered Pumping
Systems for Deep Tubewells in Pakistan.
Vol. (3), No. (18), NRD, PARC, Islamabad,
Pakistan.

Natural Resources Division, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad, Pakistan