Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Sophisticated PV irrigation schemes for high value crops

An irrigation scheme has been developed that combines photovoltaic (PV) power with modern irrigation technologies. Water is pumped from a communal pumping system using a PV powered pump. A software system then manages a watering network system that can deliver water to the irrigation scheme according to the weather and the crop's water requirements. The system, when commercialized, has the potential to be of great benefit to farmers needing efficient and cost-effective watering systems for valuable crops. Intelligent irrigation systems can be cost-effective for the farming of high value crops such as tomatoes, mandarins, etc. These irrigation systems incorporate recognition of the water needs of the crops and the prevailing weather conditions to provide an automated watering network. PV-fuelled water pumping is becoming increasingly common in southern European countries. It is therefore appropriate to develop irrigation systems that integrate PV energy with modern irrigation technologies. However, it is important to ensure that the users of the system - in this case the farmers - are able to operate the system with confidence, and for it to provide easy operation for remote areas and a high level of reliability when operating automatically and autonomously. The project was carried out in a farming area south of Lisbon where high value crops are irrigated by a communal water system. In the project, the water usage of the individual farmers was measured, a site for the PV pump was selected, and a pumping system was installed together with an intelligent software watering system to drive the irrigation scheme. The project team was careful to involve the local municipality and the farmers at all stages of the project development. The PV pump was installed and operated successfully in a real irrigation environment. There were some initial difficulties, especially relating to obtaining reliable consumption profiles from each of the farmers, but once these had been obtained the pumping system could operate and be monitored regularly. The automatic irrigation scheme was established at some pilot locations and more devices are expected to be installed for crop irrigation. However, the intelligent software for the watering network system requires further development before it can operate successfully. The farming community is happy with the PV pumping system because they can see that it is operating successfully. There is less interest in the intelligent irrigation system so more demonstration and operational experience needs to be carried out before the system can fully demonstrate its advantages.

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Quinta da Torre
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