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Irrigating Fields With Sunshine, The Sunflower Pump Is An Insipired Low-Cost Alternative To Diesel Pumps

Originally published on Ecopreneurist.

Sunflowers, sunbeams, and dry fields. The sun is shining and the fields need watering, what’s a farmer to do? Use his tired old back pumping water? Worse yet, use that smelly diesel fuel or petrol to pump some water? No, there is an alternative! Use the sunshine to pump the water. It just goes hand in hand — sunshine and watering are two parts of the same work day. When the fields need watering, there is plenty of sunshine. Renewable energy is ever-present.

Futurepump, the Sunflower’s creator, explains: “The Sunflower is the result of over twenty years R&D to develop an affordable way of doing this.”

Cheaper, no smell, no hard labor, this solar-powered pump is rather simple after all. Credit: Futurepump, The Sunflower

The Sunflower uses a solar collector that generates steam to drive a simple engine pump. It can lift 12,000 litres/day from a 7.5m well (more at shallower depths) which can irrigate around 1/2 acre. It is so cost-effective — with No fuel costs, (and no noxious smell) — that the initial investment of around $400 can be recouped in 1-2 years compared to the ongoing running costs of diesel or petrol engines.

Futurepump built this baby to last. It is designed with the intent of low maintenance, a kind consideration. It has no electronics. As Sunflower’s creators suggest,  if you understand how a bicycle operates, you will be able to understand this.

It comes as a kit. We farmers love the do-it-yourself kit, don’t we? The only thing we love more is those lady bugs and bees. It is easily serviced with spare parts always available at low cost. There are three main parts to the Sunflower:

  1. the collector, which is a reflective dish that captures and focuses sunlight to produce steam;
  2. a meticulously designed engine that converts pressurized steam into mechanical movement;
  3. the pump, a reciprocal piston pump that draws water out of the well.

In the video above, Nick, Futurepump’s field director, introduces the Sunflower Mark 2 in action in a test compound in Bolgatanga, Ghana in June 2013.

Futurepump writes:

“The design is built around principles of appropriate technology — in other words it is low-cost, simple to operate and easy to maintain and repair locally.”

The solar collector concentrates sunlight onto the water-filled boiler, producing steam which is piped to the engine. A cam attached to the flywheel shaft opens an inlet valve. Steam enters the cylinder and the pressure pushes the diaphragm piston forward activating the water pump and rotating the flywheel. The inlet valve closes, the exhaust valve opens and as the pressure drops and the flywheel inertia pushes the piston to the top of the cylinder and the cycle repeats. More details on the design here.

The new design is simpler with more standardized parts. The flow capacity has also been improved with a potential daily output of over 10,000 litres from 10m water depth. The Ghana field testing is being conducted by iDE.

Perhaps you want to become a distributor. Futurepump is just blossoming, so opportunities are readily available for growth.
Future pumps site is interested in distribution partners and dealers in East Africa, especially Kenya and Ethiopia. And it says it can offer attractive trade prices to the right partners.


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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)


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