Solar energy can be used in agriculture in a number of ways helping save money, increasing self-reliance, and reducing pollution.
There is an increasing demand for irrigation due to the need for higher food production for a rising world population and decreasing supplies of freshwater in the context of a changing climate. High diesel and electricity costs and often unreliable energy services affect the pumping requirements for irrigation for small and large farmers.
In many rural areas, grid electricity is not (or is only sporadically) available. Using solar energy for irrigation water pumping is a promising alternative to conventional electricity and diesel-based pumping systems. Solar water pumping is based on photovoltaic (PV) technology, which converts solar energy into electrical energy to run a direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC) motor-based water pump.
At farm level, PV technology can constitute a reliable source of energy for pumping of irrigation water in remote areas, particularly in areas that are not connected to the electricity grid or where regular supply of liquid fuels and maintenance services is not guaranteed. Moreover, solar pumps can help to improve access to water. In countries with economic water scarcity, this can help to buffer the effects of drought and to overcome water stress during dry seasons, when groundwater is the only available water source, or when surface water has to be hauled over long distances. Through improved access to energy and water, SPIS can help to stabilize, increase and diversify production (e.g. vegetable production including during dry seasons to complement staple crops). Excess produce can be sold on markets and generate income.