Design of a Solar-Powered Microirrigation System and Development of Design Tools for Solar-Powered Irrigation

Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS Team: Taylor Buono, Caitlin Wood, Katelyn Gerecht, Etta Grover-Silva

2009-2010: In collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, this student team designed a stand-alone solar-powered microirrigation system for a two-acre farm in Westport, MA and also developed a solar-array sizing design tool to assist with the design of similar solar-powered irrigation systems on other farms.

The team started by designing the water conveyance system and used the total dynamic head from the pipes to size the pump; using the load from the pump, the team sized the solar array.  The system was designed to match the expected water needs for the farm crops and to meet the producers’ desire for a simple system without the added costs of batteries or water storage tanks.  Once they refined the complete design, the team prepared construction plans and specifications, detailed cost estimates, and an irrigation water management plan for the producers.  The team then developed an interactive spreadsheet for sizing a solar array on similar off-grid farms in Massachusetts.  This design tool is compatible with existing NRCS tools for microirrigation system design.

The team’s design was implemented in time for the 2010 growing season and is currently providing water to the producers’ crops.  The NRCS will be able to use the design tool to size solar-powered systems on similar farm projects in the future.