Suited for farming in arid regions in the country, solar pumping is yet to take root in Kenya despite the solar industry being estimated at Sh250 million yearly in Kenya, with the high initial outlay for solar pumping systems as yet out of reach for most farmers.
“We have not sold any this year,” said Liz Kiprono of Sollatek East Africa. Regardless, the technology is being embraced by affluent farmers in regions like Eldoret. Besides pumping it can be used in pond management, irrigation and watering livestock.
The pumps come in various sizes. The smallest Lorenz pump can lift water from depths of 65 metres at the rate of 5.7 litres per minute. This kind requires less than 150 watts to operate. For such a pump in a 10 hour sunny day it can pump 3400 litres of water. That can supply 30 head of cattle and water 40 fruit trees.
Still there are other solar pumps available and can lift water from depths of up to 200 metres. The water pumped is then be stored in a reservoir from where they can be used for irrigation, domestic use or stored for watering crops in arid spells.
To conserve the stored water, irrigation experts advise for use of drip irrigation to water farms. Drip compared to other traditional watering methods like sprinkler or furrow is efficient at water conservation by 90 percent.
To make solar pump more efficient, especially when all day watering of crops is needed the panel can be fitted with a solar tracker device that can be improvised from local materials. The tracker can then be tilted to follow the sun direction from sunrise to sunset.
The tracker increases daily energy gain by as much as 55 percent. However tracking is least effective in cloudy spells or rainy days.
Another major merit of solar pumps is their life expectancy as some can last over 20 years. There are simple to install and relatively maintenance free but for occasional check ups. Generally it takes five to ten years before effects of wear and tear are felt. However the pumps also work effectively without spoiling in cold and hot weather.
Prior its installation the technology companies perform site surveys before they recommended which solar pump is best suited for a place or a terrain.
Ranchers in countries like America, Australia use the solar pump technology to distribute water for over 5 kilometers of pipeline.
Various local solar outlets like Kenya Solar, Eco Solar Winafrique and Sollatek stock the solar pump at varying prices. At Sollatek East Africa a 2000 liters solar pump costs Sh300, 000.
Written By James Karuga for African Laughter
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