Photovoltaic (PV) Pumping Systems for Irrigation

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Photovoltaic Powered Irrigation Systems are a technically mature but not yet a very widespread technology. A typical system consists of an energy source (PV array) to produce the power required for the pump that lifts the water to a usable height where it is distributed (thorugh open water flow, piped water with outlets, sprinkler systems, drip irrigation etc.).

The key barriers to PV-powered Irrigation Systems today include investment costs (esp. for small-scale farmers), technical know-how for installation and maintenance, operational skills from the farmers and ecological limits (esp. water ressource).

SWOT Analysis of Solar Powered Pumps

-> see article "Solar Powered Irrigation Systems"

Economics of PV Pumping (PVP) Systems

Economics of PV pumping systems for irrigation is dependent on numerous factors (see article "PV Pumping").
In general, PV pumps for irrigation can only be operated cost-efficiently under the following conditions:
  • In order to reduce the energy requirements of PVP irrigation systems water-conserving and energy-saving micro-irrigation techniques have to be applied.
  • The plot size for PVP irrigation should be below 4 hectares.
  • High rates of system utilisation are necessary to achieve economic viability of PVP irrigation systems.
  • Therefore PVP systems are limited to irrigate permanent crops and continuous crop rotation in arid climates.
  • High value-added cash crops like fruits, vegetables and spices should be given preference to recoup the high initial investment.
  • Low-interest loans should be available for the same reason.
  • PVP irrigation systems require a careful planning of the crop schedule and are more demanding of user skills.

GIZ Project Activities


EnDev Bolivia offers technical support for water pumping systems with the aim of increased field productivity. Advisory services incl. system sizing and the choice of the appropriate energy technology (diesel, solar, wind or grid-connected). Trainings are also offered for interested farmers and co-operatives.


GIZ Egypt offers technical support for the search of suitable international solar companies and local partners, studies on improved irrigation practices and capacity building material for on the job trainings as well as awareness raising activities for solar energy in Egypt (See also Solar Powered Irrigation Systems in Egypt)


An integrated expert (CIM) supports the market development for PV-powered irrigation in Ghana. The CIM expert supports the local company FAM.


GIZ India has conducted research into the potential of solar powered irrigation in Bihar (Report available for download from the IGEN-RE website A study on the potential of solar powered irrigation in West-Bengal is in preparation. Two pilot demonstration systems were installed on the land of a farmers cooperative in Vaishali district of Bihar. The site is used as a pay-as-you-go model for the local farmers. Technology demonstration and awareness-camps are implemented. Awareness creation materials for promotion of solar water pumps are developed. Rural bankers are trained to create an enabling market ecosystem for solar water pumps.


GIZ Morocco is working on a market study to assess the value chain potential of the solar market incl. solar water pumps for local companies.


The PERACOD programme of GIZ Senegal supported the setup of a 5.67 kWp pilot solar powered irrigation system at Beer Sheba. The system is equipped with a TSP 6000 and pumps a maximum of 75 m³ of water per day from a depth of 48 m.


GIZ FSD and PREEEP co-operated to develop a financial instrument that will help to develop the market for solar powered irrigation systems. A PPP with a local financial institution (SACCO) was signed and a financial loan was developed. The loan (24 months, 18% p.a.) links payback to harvest periods.

Furthermore, one 120 Wp demonstration plant was installed at a 0.25 acre plot of a farmer in Kalongo. Water source was a pond with a total head of 2.5 m. The system failed after one year of operation as the farmer deceased.

Case Study: "Potential for Solar PV Water Pumping for Irrigation in Bihar, India"

This report assesses the technical maturity and the market potential for solar powered water pumping for irrigation - in Bihar, India. It provides an overview of the current usage of solar water pumps for irrigation, along with opportunities and challenges for their usage.

India uses 12 million gridbased (electric) and 9 million diesel irrigation pump sets (C-STEP 2010). However, due to high operational cost of diesel pump farmers are forced to practice deficit irrigation of crops,resulting in considerable reductions in their yield and income.

Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) sets represent an environment-friendly, low-maintenance and costeffective alternative to irrigation pump sets which run on grid electricity or diesel. It is etimated that India's potential for Solar PV water pumping for irrigation to is 9 to 70 million solar PV pump sets, i.e. at least 255 billion ltr/year of diesel savings (HWWI 2005). Still, solar PV water pumping systems remain a rather unknown technical option, especially in the agricultural sector.

In Bihar, solar PV water pumping for irrigation is a suitable option. Bihar has ample availability of surface and ground water, suitable agricultural practices, and sufficient solar radiation conducive for solar PV water pumping. The study points out key
challenges and potential solutions for tapping the solar water pumping potential in Bihar - structured into market related, regulatory, and technology related issues.

The study concludes that policy makers, the private sector and other facilitating stakeholders and financial institutes need to come together and address the analysed barriers to large-scale deployment of the solar PV water pumping systems in Bihar. [1][2][3]

Solar Water Pumping for Irrigation. Opportunities in Bihar, India (GIZ, 2013)

-> India Energy Situation

Further Information


  1. C-STEP, (2010). “Harnessing Solar Energy: Options for India” Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (C-STEP).
  2. GIZ, 2013. Solar Water Pumping for Irrigation. Opportunities in Bihar, India: 2013 report solar water pumping for irrigation in bihar.pdffckLR
  3. HWWI, (2005). “CDM potentials for SPV pumps in India” Hamburgisches Welt Wirtschafts Institut (HWWI), Research Paper No 4.: wilpubdb/HWWI Research Paper 4.pdf