When To Go Solar?

  • Solar radiation is high and constant through the year
  • Electrical grid is faulty or inexistent
  • Fuel supply chains are erratic or too expensive
  • Generator spare parts are not immediately available
  • Water schemes are constructed with an aim to last for long years
  • Knowledge and good quality solar products can be found at national level

Solar PV technology can be used for a variety of applications including human consumption, livestock watering and irrigation.

Context 1 – Refugee/ IDP Camps: mainstreaming of solar pumping

In camp contexts with a perspective of being in place for at least 2-3 years, solar pumping should be considered from as early stage in time as possible, whenever they are able to meet a significant amount of the water demand. Stand-alone solar systems should be favored over Hybrid (solar + back-up power source) unless:

  • Population figures are not well known or are prone to sudden increases at short notice
  • Behavior of the aquifer is largely unknown
  • Experience in solar pumping is low or inexistent among WASH partners or in the area of work

In older camps, solarization of water schemes should be prioritized looking first at a) camps with high recurrent costs to ensure water provision and b) smaller schemes first, as its solarization is often more cost effective (capital investment is lower and the return period shorter than in larger water schemes).

Context 2 – Host-communities: social aspects before technology choice

Solar pumping is, from the technical point of view, equally appropriate for water supply projects at host community level, and certainly it should be considered as a default option there where diesel generators are used, in order to increase sustainability and resilience of communities.

Solar pumping schemes record high acceptance among host communities but, as a difference with camps, aspects to do with ownership, operation and maintenance and collection and management of water fees add an extra-layer of complexity.

A well thought social approach, involving contribution from users, should come before technology choice. In this sense, prioritizing communities with strong social cohesion and coordinating approaches with government water offices should be a pre-requisite.

When solar pumping should be discouraged

Solar pumping should not be seen as a blanket solution to every water supply project, and its use is discouraged when one or more of the following cases is present:

  • Where average solar radiation is so low that a solar PV pumping solution would be unable to provide a significant amount of the water required.
  • When the expertise of the implementing agency is low and private sector support cannot be counted upon.
  • Where theft and/or vandalisms of solar schemes is widespread reported from past interventions.
  • When site specific issues [e.g. lack of space, land ownership, important shading in the area of work or others] impede proper installation of the designed solar PV solution.
  • Where solar technology does not bring any significant technical or economic advantage vs existing solutions.

Tip: Google Solargis + Name of your country to get an accurate map of solar pv power potential

The Solar Hub Team
The Solar Hub Team
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