Solar Powered Irrigation System

Installing the solar system

The Institute for Food Farm has no access to electricity or municipal water. Initially, a well and a pump system were installed, powered by a portable gasoline generator. With support of a USDA-NIFA-NLGCA Capacity Building grant and a gift from Miami Alum Jeff Eckel, we have installed a solar array to power our water and irrigation system. The project was designed by Professor Mark Scott and his students in partnership with Sonlight Power, a nonprofit organization that designs and builds solar energy solutions for community venues — schools, medical clinics, orphanages, community centers, churches, water-pumping stations — in remote locations around the world, bringing clean electricity for the first time to thousands who do not have it.

Project Team

Three groups of faculty and students worked on designing, installing, and maintaining a renewable energy source as part of the sustainable agriculture operation. This new system is low-cost, portable, and requires no extra power source.

Mark Scott led a group of electric/computer engineers to design the electrical hardware. Padmakar Niskode led a group of mechanical engineers to develop the mechanical hardware. Ben Jacks, an associate professor of architecture, led a group of his students to design a transportable shipping container with enough space to house all infrastructures including solar arrays.

Solar Irrigation vs Conventional Irrigation

The well and pump system that provided irrigation initially (as of February 2017) used a centrifugal pump and an induction machine to extract the water from the well and feed the irrigation system. It was powered by a gasoline generator.

The current sustainable design system uses a solar photovoltaic (PV) array to stock power to a battery bank. A programmable logic controller controls the valves that trigger the drip irrigation system. A motor drives the pump and extracts water from the well, sending it to the existing pressurized tank.