PV water pumping systems for agricultural applications

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalen University

Abstract: Grassland and farmland degradation is considered as one of the worst environmental and economic threats for China. The degradation process negatively affects food and water security, economy, society and climate changes.Photovoltaic water pumping (PVWP) technology for irrigation is an innovative and sustainable solution to curb the grassland degradation. At the same time it can promote the conservation of farmland, especially in remote areas of China. The combination of PVWP technology with water saving irrigation techniques and sustainable management of the groundwater resources can lead to several benefits. These include enhancing grassland productivity, halting wind and rainfall erosion, providing higher incomes and better living conditions for farmers.   This doctoral thesis aims to bridge the current knowledge gaps, optimize system implementation and prevent system failures. This work represents thus a step forward to solve the current and future nexus between energy, water and food security in China, using PVWP technology for irrigation.Models for the dynamic simulations of PVWP systems, irrigation water requirements (IWR) and crop response to water have been presented and integrated. Field measurements at a pilot PVWP system in Inner Mongolia have been conducted to analyse the reliability of the models adopted. A revision of the traditional design approaches and a new optimization procedure based on a genetic algorithm (GA) have been proposed to guarantee the match between IWR and water supply, to minimize the system failures and to maximize crop productivity and thus the PVWP system profitability and effectiveness.Several economic analyses have been conducted to establish the most cost effective solution for irrigation and to evaluate the project profitability. The possible benefits generated by the PVWP system implementation have been highlighted, as well as the effects of the most sensitive parameters, such as forage price and incentives. The results show that PVWP system represents the best technical and economic solution to provide water for irrigation in the remote areas compared to other traditional water pumping technologies. The environmental benefits have been also addressed, evaluating the CO2 emissions saving achievable from the PVWP system operation. The assessment of the feasible and optimal areas for implementing PVWP systems in China has been conducted using spatial analysis and an optimization tool for the entire supply chain of forage production. The results show that the potentials of PVWP systems in China are large. Nevertheless, the feasible and optimal locations are extremely sensitive to several environmental and economic para­meters such as forage IWR, groundwater depth, and CO2 credits that need to be carefully taken into account in the planning process.   Although this doctoral thesis has used China as case study, PVWP technology can be applied for irrigation purposes all over the world both for off- and on-grid applications leading to several economic and environmental benefits.