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Modeling and simulation of large PV pumping


Conference Paper · September 2015

DOI: 10.4229/EUPVSEC20152015-6BV.5.42


1 140

5 authors, including:

Jose Manuel Carrillo Luis Miguel Carrasco

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid


L. Narvarte
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid


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Modeling and simulation of

large PV pumping systems

J. Muñoz*, J.M. Carrillo, F. Martínez-Moreno, L.M. Carrasco, L. Narvarte

Grupo de Sistemas Fotovoltaicos. Instituto de Energía Solar – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (IES-UPM)
Address: ETS Ingeniería y Diseño Industrial (ETSIDI). Ronda de Valencia, 3. 28012 Madrid (Spain)

Presented at the 31st European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition
DOI: 10.4229/EUPVSEC20152015-6BV.5.42

Orcid ID:

This paper describes the modelling of components for large PV pumping systems, which have been
implemented in an online and free-software simulator of PV systems called SISIFO, which is publicly available at Among other features, this software tool allows the prediction of water pumped as function of PV
size and type and the analysis of system performance.

Keywords: PV System, PV Pumping, Water-Pumping, Software, Modelling, Simulation.


The reduction of cost for PV modules caused by the massive installation of grid-connected systems has
increased the economic competitiveness of conventional decentralised PV applications. In particular, there is a
renewed interest in water PV pumping systems, which are the object of this paper, and PV-diesel hybrid systems,
which are discussed in a concurrent paper of this conference [1].

Large PV water pumps, in the range of hundreds of kW, are emerging as commercial products for
water irrigation applications and, even in industrialised countries, they may compete or complement the
connection to the electricity grid.

For example, in Spain, despite the hybridization of grid and PV pumps is not allowed by the present
regulatory framework, some regional agriculture associations are studying the possibility of integrating large
stand-alone PV pumps in their current irrigation systems.

These irrigation systems are usually composed by several centrifugal pumps of several hundreds of
kW with an aggregated capacity in the MW range, and associations are decided to supply one of more of these
pumps with PV, which would reduce the contractual power required from the electricity grid at noon when kWh
prices, besides, are relatively high.

To assess this integration and analysing technical as well economic aspects, it is necessary to
predict the volume of water pumped by the PV system, typically, for a yearly period.

This paper describes the modelling of components for large PV pumping systems, which have been
implemented in an online and free-software simulator of PV systems called SISIFO, which is publicly available at

This simulation tool allows the prediction for water pumping as function of PV size and type and
the analysis of system performance. Finally, a simulation example of a real 20kW PV pumping demonstrator
installed in the Irrigator Community of Alto Vinalopó, Alicante (Spain), is presented. This demonstrator includes a
North-South horizontal tracker which improves the efficiency of the PV pumping system in terms of m3 of pumped
water per kWh of the incident irradiance.

The presentation of this paper has been organised with the following structure. Section 2 describes
the modeling of the system components and Section 3 presents the simulation example.


The configuration of the simulated water pumping PV system is displayed in figure 1, which is composed of
a PV generator, a variable-frequency inverter and an AC centrifugal pump.

PV Frequency AC centrifugal
generator converter pump

Figure 1: Configuration of a water pumping PV system.

The detailed modeling of the PV generator and the inverter is beyond the scope of this paper, but it is
described elsewhere by the authors [2][4]. It is just worth mentioning that SISIFO allows the simulation of three
static and six sun-tracking PV generators. For example, static ground-mounted or building-integrated PV
generators in roofs or façades, and conventional one-axis horizontal or two-axes sun-trackers. Sun-trackers
generate more energy at higher equipment cost and some of them, e.g., one-axis horizontal solar trackers, may be
cost-effective in particular energy scenarios at present PV modules prices.

We focus here only on the modelling of the system curve (pipeline characteristic) and the AC centrifugal
pump, which is composed by an AC motor and a mechanical centrifugal pump. Figure 2 shows the scheme of the AC
pump including some of the power terminology defined below in this paper.

P1 P2 PH

AC motor Centrifugal

Figure 2: Scheme of an AC centrifugal pump.

2.1 AC motor model

The AC motor is characterized by its rated output mechanical power (P2,NOM), or rated shaft power, and its
power conversion efficiency, ηM, which is calculated as:

P2 p2
M   (1)
P1 p2  (k m 0  k m1 p2  k m 2 p22 )

Where p2=P2/P2,NOM being P2 the output mechanical power of the motor and P1 the electric input power of
the motor. Parameters km0, km1 and km2 are fitted from the motor efficiency curve, which is normally provided by
the manufacturer.

2.2 Centrifugal pump model
The characteristics of the pumps are normally provided by the manufacturers at a constant, nominal or
rated, speed. Figure 3 shows an example of the variation of typical pump parameters as a function of the
volumetric water flow, Q, which is usually expressed in [l/s] or [m3/h].

The parameters displayed in Figure 3 are:

H Head. The curve H-Q of the pump is usually called the "pump curve".

P1 Electric input power.

P2 Shaft power.

P Pump efficiency. It is defined as the ratio PH/P2, where PH is the hydraulic power, which is
equal to PH=k·H·Q. The constant k depends on the dimensions of H and Q.

MP Motor-pump efficiency (MP=MP). It is defined as the ratio PH/P1.


Efficiency P


Power P1


Q (Flow)

Figure 3: Typical pump characteristics at constant speed provided by manufacturers.

For simulation purposes, some of these characteristics are fitted with second order polynomials [5]. For
example, H-Q and P2-Q curves may be written, at rated speed, as:

H (Q)  k B 0  k B1Q  k B 2Q 2 (2)

P2(Q)  k P 0  k P1Q  k P 2Q 2 (3)

In order to determine the operating point of the pump is necessary to know the relationship between H and
Q for the hydraulic components (pipeline, valves, etc.), which is usually so-called the "system curve". The system
curve has been modelled with the following equation:

H S (Q)  kS 0  kS 2Q 2 (4)

Where HS is the system head, and kS0 and kS2 are constants that represent, respectively, static head and
friction losses.

The operating point on pump curve may be calculated either graphically or numerically. Obviously, the
second method is used in simulations, but let us first describe the graphic method, which will be useful to illustrate
the problem.

Graphically, the operating point is in the intersection of pump curve (Equation 2) and system curve
(Equation 4). Figure 4 shows an example, where the operating point at rated speed (1=NOM) would be the point

Affinity parabola
Pump curve
H1 A System curve

B 1   NOM

2  1
Q2 Q1 Q

Figure 4: Graphical example for determining the operation point of the pump with variable speed.

However, the operation point is not constant because the speed of the pump varies according to the PV
power, which itself depends on solar radiation. The variation of the pump speed modifies the pump curve and the
operating point. Figure 4 shows the new curve and new operating point B at a lower speed (2<1). As the system
curve does not change, the operating point is always in this curve.

Hence, the calculation of the operating point requires the determination of pump curves as a function of
pump speed. The solution is obtained using the well know affinity laws for pumps, which, assuming that the
impeller diameter and water density remain constant, state that:

Q1 1

Q2  2
H 1  1 
  (5)
H 2   2 
P 21  1 
 
P 22   2 

In the previous equation, Q is the volumetric water flow, H is the head and P2 is the shaft power. Subscripts
1 and 2 indicate two different operating points, which are in a parabola that passes through the origin. The
equation of this “affinity” parabola is obtained by solving simultaneously the first two affinity equations:

2 2
H1  1   Q1 
    or
H 2  2   Q2  (
Q 
H1  H 2  1 
 Q2 

For example, in Figure 4, points C and B are in the same affinity parabola. It can be observed that the point
C is not in the system curve (because the static head is different from zero) and it can not be an operating point.
Nevertheless, it is required as intermediate calculation in the numerical procedure described below. Finally, it is
worth pointing out that affinity laws assume that pump efficiency remains constant for points 1 and 2, i.e., that

The final goal of the pump modelling is obtaining the relationship between the output water flow, Q, and
input shaft power, P2. For this purpose the following numerical procedure is applied:

1. Assume an initial flow equal to Q2.

2. Calculate the corresponding head on system curve, H2=HS(Q2) (point B(Q2,H2)).
3. Determine the affinity parabola (Equation 6) that passes through point B.
4. Calculate the intersection of the affinity parabola and pump curve (Equation 2), to obtain the point
5. Determine the hydraulic power at point C, PH1=k·H1·Q1.
6. Determine the shaft power at point C, P2 (Q1).
7. Calculate pump efficiency at point C, ηP1=PH1/P2(Q1), which is equal to the efficiency at point B, ηP2= ηP1.
8. Calculate the hydraulic power at point B, PH2.

Finally, determine the shaft power at point B as P22=PH2/ ηP2.

Varying Q2, a set of discrete points for P22 are obtained, which allow determining the relationship between
flow and shaft power. For simulation purposes, these points are fitted with a third degree polynomial:

Q( P 2)  kQ 0  kQ1 P 2  kQ 2 P 2 2  kQ 3 P 2 3 (7)

The previous equation has the typical shape displayed in Figure 5, where the parameter P2MIN is the
minimum required shaft power for water pumping.



Figure 5: Typical shape of the relationship between flow, Q, and shaft power, P2. The parameter P2MIN is the required minimum power for
water pumping.


This section presents a simulation example of a real 20kWp PV pumping demonstrator installed in the
Irrigator Community of Alto Vinalopó, Alicante (Spain), which pumps water from a borehole whose static head is

This demonstrator includes a North-South horizontal one-axis tracker (see Figure 6) which improves the
efficiency of the PV pumping system in terms of m3 of pumped water per kWh of the incident irradiance.

Figure 6: Figure 6: North-South horizontal one-axis PV tracker installed in the Irrigator Community of Alto Vinalopó, Alicante (Spain).

(a) (c)

(b) (d)
Figure 7: Characteristics of the AC centrifugal pump.

The characteristics of the centrifugal pump are displayed in Figure 7. Points marked with circles have been
obtained from manufacturer information and solid lines are the simulation models. Figure7-a shows the pump
curve at the rated speed (2900rpm) together with the system curve. Figure 7-b represents the motor efficiency as a
function of the shaft power, which reaches a maximum around 80%. Figure 7-c displays the mechanical shaft
power as a function of the flow at rated speed. And, finally, Figure 7-d shows the calculated curve using the above
described numerical procedure, but here as a function of the input electric power, P1.

Figure 8 displays the yearly Sankey diagram for the system, where energy losses are indicated as a
percentage of the reference yield. In AC, the final yield reaches 2049 kWh/kWp, of which 1158 kWh/kWp are
converted into useful hydraulic energy. In terms of water pumping, they are equivalent to 1637m 3/kWp or
32740m3 per year.

The performance ratio, PR, is defined here as the ratio of useful hydraulic energy to the reference yield and
is equal to 46%. This efficiency may be substantially improved in larger systems, where the pump and motor
efficiencies are higher.

The initial investment cost of the demonstrator is 2,4€/Wp which, assuming a system lifetime of 20 years,
translates into a pumping cost equal to 7.3c€/m3. Obviously, this cost should decrease for larger systems and by
economies of scale, and should be increased with additional costs (capital, operation and maintenance, etc.).
Anyway, the final cost could be economically attractive taking into account that, at present, the irrigator
community where this demonstrator has been installed spends 12.8c€/m3 (see Table I).

Figure 8: Yearly Sankey diagram for the simulated PV system. Energy losses are indicated as percentage of the reference yield.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that SISIFO also allows a detailed analysis of system performance. For
example, the user may access to the time series of any simulated variable (powers, losses, water flow, pump speed,
etc.). For example, Figure 9 shows the daily variation of water flow during the characteristic days of the year.

Table I: Yearly grid-connection costs from a representative borehole provided by the Irrigator Community
of Alto Vinalopó.

Table 1: Yearly grid-connection costs from a representative borehole provided by the Irrigator Community of Alto Vinalopó.

Item Value
Operation time 2,613h per year
Water pumping 738,679m3
Electricity consumption 958,939kWh
Total electricity cost 94,25 €
9.8 c€/kWh
Per unit costs

Figure 9: Daily variation of water flow during the characteristic days of the year.


This paper has presented the modelling of large PV pumping systems, which has been implemented in
SISIFO, an online and free-software simulator of PV systems that is publicly available at

Besides, a simulation example of real case study is described, which illustrates some of the capacities of this
simulation tool.


This work has been possible thanks to the funding of the FP7 European Programme (Energy) in the project
PhotoVoltaic Cost reduction, Reliability, Operational performance, Prediction and Simulation (PVCROPS), Project
reference 308468. (


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Open-Source Simulation Tool of Grid-Connected PV Systems. 28th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy
Conference and Exhibition, 2013, 3882–87.
[3] doi:10.4229/28thEUPVSEC2013-5BV.4.18.
[4] J. Muñoz et al. SISIFO: An online simulator of PV systems. Technical Reference Manual v1.0. Available at:
[5] Suehrcke, H., J. Appelbaum, and B. Breshef. Modelling a Permanent Magnet DC Motor/centrifugal Pump
Assembly in a Photovoltaic Energy System. Solar Energy. Vol. 59, no. 1–3, 1997: 37–42.
[6] doi:10.1016/S0038-092X(96)00117-X.


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