Feb 26, 2013

Local fluid conveyance and pumping solutions provider Incledon has been appointed key distributor for Australia-based solar water-pumps manufacturer BW Solar, which  established a branch in South Africa in 2012

Farmers across the country can, therefore, benefit from BW Solar’s range of solar-powered Waterboy pumps and accessories, specifically designed for accessing water in remote and rural areas, which Incledon has made available to the local market.

The Waterboy solar pump system, introduced onto the local market in August 2012, is a sustainable and reliable water-supply system by BW Solar.

Since its introduction locally, the Waterboy solar pump system has proved particularly popular with farmers who want to supply water to livestock at game and cattle farms, says Incledon pumps and irrigation product manager Bruce Crystal.

“Standard alternating-current-driven pumps can be exceptionally costly to install when power cables need to be laid, while diesel-driven pumps require constant maintenance and, at game farm installations, their noise often frightens game,” he explains.

Further, with South Africa’s abundant sunshine, Crystal says solar power is the ideal future pumping solution.

He explains that, while the initial cost of a solar-powered pump may be more than a traditional electrical pump, the long-term savings are substantial.

“In some situations, the Waterboy system pays for itself almost immediately and continues to generate renewable and reliable energy, while standard prices continue to rise,” Crystal adds.

However, BW Solar Africa MD Sheldon Davy says that only 2% of customers are using the Waterboy solar pump system as a way of gaining independence from the South African power grid.

“Most of those interested in the product are farmers who want to use it as a complementary product,” he says, citing farmers who have boreholes several kilometres away from a power point as an example.

Davy explains that, in such instances, the payoff is almost immediate and the solution costs are substantially less than the costs of laying cables to connect a borehole to the main power grid.

“This eliminates the earthworks, labour and capital associated with installing a new cable. The payoff is immediate for farmers, as they transition from having no water to having an abundance of water,” he adds.

Davy says that more than 100 Waterboy systems have been sold to customers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana.

While sales volumes of the Waterboy solar pump system were steady in 2012, he believes that BW Solar can gain considerable market share in 2013 through securing further distribution partnerships.

"Having developed a reputation for being a trusted and reliable distributor of high-quality products in South Africa for more than 100 years, I have complete confidence in Incledon playing a significant role in promoting the benefits of the Waterboy solar pump range to its comprehensive portfolio of existing customers and contacts in the local industry."

Crystal tells Engineering News that Incledon is still setting up demonstration units at company branches across South Africa to make the newly launched product visible to the market place.

He adds that, while solar-powered pumps are not new to the market, the technology on the Waterboy has improved significantly and the cost of solar power has decreased.

“It’s now a viable option, especially in isolated areas where people cannot rely on State-owned power utility Eskom for power,” he says.

Crystal admits that, in terms of capital costs, the initial cost of a solar-powered pump is higher than a traditional equivalent, but insists that, within three to five years, solar-powered pumps become more cost effective, owing to spared electricity costs.

Further, with the continued push for greener technologies, he believes that local farmers will invest in solar power moving forward.

"South African game farmers are fully aware of the long-term financial and environmental benefits of solar power and, bearing in mind the substantial number of game farms in the country, I believe that the potential for growth in the Waterboy solar pump range is considerable.”

Product Overview

The Waterboy solar-powered pump is powered by a brushless direct-current (DC) motor, with a helical rotor, which is a helix-shaped rotor that fits closely into a rubber stator that has a helical groove, forming sealed cavities that trap water. As the rotor turns, the cavities move toward the outlet.

A helical rotor wet end is especially beneficial on a solar pump, as it is a positive displacement pump, which will produce water in cloudy or low-light conditions, explains Crystal.

“So, whether your motor turns at 1 rpm or 100 rpm, the pump is still producing water.”

This is unlike a centrifugal pump, which needs to run at full speed.

Davy adds that the helical rotor pump is a reliable and proved pumping technology, which has only one moving part, thereby, ensuring reliable water production. Older, more traditional pumps employ a brushed DC motor that uses brushes to conduct a current to the motor.

With this technology, the brushes wear out regularly and require periodic servicing, which can be costly.

Davy adds that the Waterboy system’s solar panels are tilted at between 25° and 30°, which allows them to be cleaned by rainwater, eliminating the need for maintenance. The panels are also covered by a 25-year warranty.

Further, while the Waterboy pump needs to be serviced every five to six years – which entails a simple helical rotor change ­– its expected life span is more than 25 years, with almost no other maintenance required.

Davy explains that the pump is manufactured entirely from stainless steel, with the stator manufactured from nitrile rubber, thereby extending the rotor life under harsh water conditions.

The brushless motor is oil-filled and can be submerged up to 30 m below the water level, while all pumps in the range have a topmost total dynamic head of up to 140 m, with a top flow rate of up to 8 m³/h, depending on the system used.

“Moreover, the built-in microprocessor, with a maximum power point tracking function, continuously enhances the pump duty point according to the input power available,” says Davy.