It should first be noted that “solar powered pump” is actually a description of a two phase process. You have:
- the actual pump and
- an energy source being powered by the sun, with a cable or wire connecting the two devices.
Solar powered pumps can be used to pump water for humans, livestock or plants. Since the need for water is greatest on sunny hot days the technology is an obvious choice for this application.
Pumping water using solar powered technology is simple, reliable, and requires almost no maintenance.
To date the greatest use for solar powered pumps has been in agriculture where the pumps can be used on remote farms and outback stations to supply water to livestock. The remoteness is the key thing here as powering the pump by any means other than solar would be costly and inefficient. In a like manner, solar powered pumps are used extensively in developing countries to pump water from wells and rivers to villages for domestic consumption and irrigation of crops.
A typical solar powered pumping system consists of an array of Photo Voltaic (PV) cells that powers an electric motor, which drives a pump. The water is often pumped from beneath the ground or from a stream into a storage tank that provides a gravity feed. No energy storage is needed for these systems (save from maybe a rechargeable back-up battery source). Solar powered pumping systems are a cost-effective alternative to windmills (particularly on still days) for remote area water supply.
The most inexpensive solar powered pumps cost less than $1,500 while the larger systems can run to over $20,000. Most PV water pumps rarely exceed 2 horsepower in size. A well installed quality PV water pumping systems can provide over 20 years of reliable and continuous service.
Whilst it has been the needs of developing countries and agriculture that has initially driven the demand for solar powered pump technology, a greater environmental consciousness around the world has seen many householders use solar powered pumps (rather than a less environmentally friendly internal combustion engine) to create solar powered waterfalls or solar powered fountains in a pond display.
A solar powered pond, powered directly from solar panels, will work whenever there is direct sunlight; the brighter the sun the stronger the flow. Some solar powered water fountains will include a remote solar panel with enough wire that allows for the solar panel to be placed well away from the fountain. Solar power offers a great alternative when convenient electrical installation is not possible – as is often the case with gardens.
Decorative additions to a solar powered pond display such as solar powered glowing frog lights and solar powered floating lily pad led lights can usually be purchased at the same place that you purchase your solar powered pump kit.