The extent, characteristics and potential of solar powered irrigation systems in South Africa

Keywords: solar panels, irrigation system integration, water use efficiency, load shedding


South Africa has been identified as having a high potential for solar powered irrigation. However, there has been a lag in the development of solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) there, mainly due to the high investment cost associated with solar technology. South Africa has frequently implemented load shedding, which has affected many farmers. The work reported in this paper sought to determine the extent of solar powered irrigation and characteristics of the system types in use. The extent of SPIS in South Africa was determined using a questionnaire, and categorised in terms of farm size, SPIS configuration (storage of energy), type of irrigation, and location of the system. These were established mainly from a literature search. The questionnaires were administered on Survey Monkey®. The sample size of the study was 138 755 potential respondents. The number that participated and completed the questionnaires included a total of 18 SPIS engineers, installers and designers and 13 SPIS users (farmers). The main problem encountered with the distribution of the survey was finding SPIS users to participate. Results from SPIS engineers, installers and designers showed that most SPIS they implemented were in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape, at 33% of the responses for both provinces. The total area under SPIS was found to be 364 ha, while the area under irrigation is South Africa is 1 300 00 ha, indicating a high potential for SPIS development. Some details on the extent of SPIS in South Africa were determined in this paper, but more SPIS users need to be identified to determine the details of their SPIS.


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