Use of lightweight, rollable solar film to power water pumps will increase access to irrigation for the world’s 500 million off-grid smallholders
Power Roll and Futurepump have signed an Application Development Partner Agreement that will see them explore the use of Power Roll’s solar film to power Futurepump’s highly efficient DC-based solar irrigation pumps for rural agriculture.
In the developing world, the vast majority of rural small farms irrigate their fields with water pumps powered by either expensive electrical grid connections or diesel generators. Electricity can be both scarce and unreliable in rural settings, while diesel generators have the added disadvantage of discharging untreated pollution directly into the rural community – with a potentially significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.
The combination of lightweight solar film and highly efficient DC-based water pumps creates a water distribution system that is environmentally friendly, sustainable, flexible, easy to use, and very low cost. Approximately 1.2m2 of Power Roll’s solar film, weighing just 500 grams and costing 1/5th the price of a silicon PV panel, is enough to power a Futurepump to irrigate up to an acre of farmland. Solar film’s significant weight advantage over conventional PV products will also reduce the effort required to move the pump around the farm, and with Power Roll’s inherent flexibility, the pumping solution is expected to be much more resilient.
The ability to use a bigger area of solar film to power pumps of 2kW or more will further expand the market for the Power Roll – Futurepump combined solution. Crops such as rice require higher power to deliver greater flow rates, which can only be satisfied today using diesel-operated pumps or solar pumps with large and fixed arrays.
“Power Roll’s solar film has the potential to radically reduce the direct costs of a solar pump solution,” said Toby Hammond, Futurepump’s Managing Director. “While traditional silicon PV panels have been effective in generating the energy for our pumps to date, they can be quite challenging to move, clean, and maintain. A more portable solution would be much easier for our customers to handle, as they typically need to move their pumps around their farms regularly. Adopting Power Roll’s solar film also maintains our plug and play approach – we want to deliver solutions that just work out of the box with no specialist technical installation.”
“Futurepump supports the immediate needs of rural farming communities – pumping water to grow food – and we want to help those communities with easy to use and cheaper pumping solutions.” said Don Scott, Chief Commercial Officer, Power Roll. “Research tells us that, in India alone, there are still over 1 million diesel generators being used to pump water for agriculture. Through our partnership with Futurepump, we look forward to providing a cheaper, cleaner, safer, and more resilient water management solution for those communities.”
Power Roll uses low-cost roll-to-roll manufacturing processes on top of their patented microgroove patterns, to produce an ultra-low-cost solar PV solution. Uniquely, solar film can also be designed to match the electrical specification of the application; further reducing the costs and complexity of use. This simplicity of production is core to Power Roll’s future plans to license high-scale manufacturing to local companies; empowering developing economies while reducing production and transport costs.