Summer drought brings about concerns of providing fresh drinking water to livestock. Surface water availability becomes unreliable, as well as, unhealthy. The need for well water as a continuous water source, especially for cattle, becomes the best solution.
The conventional method of powering a water pump is with electricity. But what if electricity is not available, or isn’t cost effective to be brought out to the well site? Gas powered electric generators can also be used, but can become costly, have to be monitored and can be easily stolen. Another alternative to consider is solar panel energy driven water pumping.
University Extension Agent, Mike McClintock, of Harrison, Ark., has worked with area farmers on deciding if solar energy is a viable alternative. “Conventional electricity is still the cheapest way to get power to the well pump. If the well is going to be a distance away from available electricity, it is worth consideration, but I would advise to do some pencil pushing and make sure you can justify the cost.” McClintock has worked with farmers that have qualified through USDA NCRS EQIP programs, “If the farmer qualifies for a cost-share program to get a well dug, it may also help with cost of a solar well pump if it is a cost-effective possibility.” McClintock also noted that in time solar electricity may become more efficient and less costly, especially if that market becomes more competitive. Another helpful consideration he shared is that there is a difference between a shallow well pump and those necessary for pulling water from the deep dug wells that are necessary in our region.
Pat Blankenship, producer from Cassville, Mo., installed a solar powered water pump during the drought year of 2005. “The well was 3/4 of a mile away from the electric line. After researching the cost of getting electricity out there, I decided it was a better deal to go with solar.” In the eight years that Blankenship has been running the solar pump he has had no problems with it. “When I first installed it I went with the minimum two solar panels, but eventually added two more because I needed more water flow.” He runs three waterers in separate pastures from the one well. “The water is pumped into a 1,500 gallon water tank with an electric float. That water then runs into the floated, semi-freeze proof concrete tanks that the cattle drink from.”
The solar panels require little maintenance, “I think they should work fine for around 20 years. And, I have no electricity bill every month.” In case it becomes necessary, Blankenship added a inverter box so that the well pump can be operated by generator. Blankenship said that he learned about the solar water pumps by reading about them in farming magazines. He also suggested talking to Power Source Solar in Springfield, Mo., who supplies everything necessary to set up a solar water pumping system for livestock use.


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