Solar Panels Array: Water Pump (2017)
In August 2017, we gave Botshabelo independent access to clean water, bringing them one step closer to reaching their goal of living off the grid. This project is a major part of Botshabelo's energy reduction strategy, but more importantly, it's a major part of providing the community with a stronger sense of independence.
Our work began in 2016, with a full energy audit of the entire community. From the amount of refrigerators to the amount of lights, we surveyed every building and every home to ensure we understood the full scale of what we'd be dealing with. From the energy audit, we determined that the community used approximately 16% of their monthly energy consumption to pump their water. At such a high cost, and due to the unreliability of power shedding, we identified this project as the best place to begin our work.
This year our team, and the team at Gusto Pumps, installed at 3.2 kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel system which directly pumps the community's water independent from the grid.
By powering the borehole pump with a solar panel array we expect to reduce Botshabelo's monthly energy consumption by 7.5%. This will account for a monthly savings of R 1,600 (~$160 CAD), or R 19,200 (~ $1920 CAD) per year, on electrical bills.
Now it wasn't a swift and easy project to complete. We came so close to completing this project during our visit but on launch day, we ran into some surprises. It turns on the cable that ran from the borehole pump to the electrical box had several ground faults, preventing the solar panels from pumping the community's water. This meant we had replace the 480 meter cable in order to use the solar panels.
We hit the fundraising hard, raising everything we needed to not only purchase half a kilometer worth of cable, but also to cover the cost of trenching and labour. Once we raised enough money to complete the project, we were in time crunch to get the work done. With 500 meters of trenching, 500 meters of cable, groups of community volunteers, and a team of electricians fixing the inverter, we finally got the panels up and running in May 2018.
We learned many lessons throughout the course of this project, but perhaps the most important learning is how important it is to let go of expectations and let be what will be. With hard work, dedication and the support of our community, we'll always find a way.
Want to know what the installation looks like? Check out the solar panel installation process here: