Grundfos harnesses renewable energy for sustainable farming, irrigation and water supplies

More than half of all Africans depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but the challenges are myriad – from political obstacles to the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating impact of climate change.

A vital way to ensure viable farming and, hence, food security on the continent is adapting systems to ensure the availability of enough clean water and clean energy for irrigation and agriculture.

Pioneering solutions to the world’s water and climate challenges, often in collaboration with non-profit organisations, communities and other private companies, is a priority for Grundfos.

This year, despite Covid-19 lockdowns across Africa and the world, Grundfos, in partnership with World Vision, exceeded their joint goal to bring safe water access to two million people by 2020.

World Vision installed more than 1 000 Grundfos solar-powered pumps in sub-Saharan African villages to provide accessible water points and a sustained water supply and the two organisations plan to bring clean water to an additional four million people in Africa in the next four years.

Here’s a summary of three innovative systems that Grundfos provides to achieve sustainable water supplies in Africa:


SQFlex and CRFlex: using renewable power to provide clean water

Like many countries in Africa, Malawi is particularly vulnerable to climate change, water scarcity and unreliable energy sources. These challenges – and particularly a lack of water – have hit mango and moringa producer Omega Farm hard.

Fortunately, Grundfos was able to step in with a tailored solar solution consisting of six 260W solar modules, a 60-litre pressure tank – and a Grundfos SQFlex 3A-10 renewable-energy submersible pump with a built-in inverter.

The farm now irrigates three hectares with about 2 500 mango trees, six hectares with 7 000 moringa trees and provides drinking water for 106 cattle, with the additional future goal of establishing an effective irrigation system to further promote sustainable farming and water solutions.

In another remote region of Africa, Erindi Ranch private game farm in the north of central Namibia faced the dilemma of a previously reliable waterhole drying up as a result of the drought, severely affecting the environment and wild animals.

With no electric supply near the dam, and diesel-powered options being expensive, polluting and noisy, the obvious, sustainable, low-maintenance and efficient choice was a solar-powered borehole.

With the help of Grundfos local distributor ConServ Engineering Services, the farmer installed a Grundfos SQFlex solar-powered borehole unit, along with six solar modules – transforming the dry dam bed to a lush drinking hole.

Omega and Erindi farms are cases in point. Using renewable power sources such as the sun and wind, Grundfos’s SQFlex and CRFlex pumps help supply many other remote communities and farmers in areas where water is scarce and the power supply non-existent with environmentally friendly solutions to provide drinking water for livestock, clean water for irrigation, and more.

Because it uses renewable energy, the SQFlex pump is one of the cheapest submersible groundwater pumps in terms of operating costs. It has a built-in variable frequency drive that converts direct current (DC) power from solar panels into standard alternating current (AC) power for pumping.

It is a complete, intelligent system: its built-in electronics ensure superior pump operation and it features maximum power point tracking (MPPT) that continuously optimises the duty point of the pump according to the available input power.

It is easy to install and can be customised to perfectly match the application it is needed for, as well as local conditions

Grundfos also offers the CRFlex vertical in-line multistage solar surface pump that can operate in remote areas off the grid for renewable energy supply.

The CRFlex solar surface pump comes with an MGFlex motor, optimised for converting photovoltaic DC power to AC, producing output identical to a standard variable frequency drive, and also working with other Grundfos pumps.

This is an easy-to-install complete solution, including solar panels, an IO SQFlex50 on/off switch, a level switch for the water reservoir, a water pipe, non-return valve and optional dry-running switch. The only maintenance needed is periodic cleaning of the solar panels and a few simple components.

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RSI: leveraging the sun’s energy for reliable water supply

Many African communities and agricultural operations are hamstrung by the lack of effective power and water supplies, and until recently major macadamia nut producer Sinde Farm in eastern Malawi was no exception.

With no utility power supply in the area, the operation had to rely on diesel-operated generators that were not eco-friendly and limited irrigation, but it wanted to swap this costly option with a sustainable, long-term solution.

As a provider of sustainable pumping solutions that are environmentally friendly, Grundfos, through its distributor Bluezone Malawi, was able to supply a fully off-grid solution, combining its renewable solar inverter, the RSI, with a Grundfos SP submersible borehole pump, SINE Wavefilter and 198 solar panels.

This not only achieved efficient water supply for irrigation but substantial cost savings for the customer over the long term, compared with diesel-driven power – and it was, of course, far less harmful to the planet.

With its focus on providing sustainable pumping solutions, Grundfos was delighted to be part of an innovative, green project to maintain water supply.

So, what makes the renewable solar inverter so reliable and desirable? It is an off-grid solar inverter, which works with submersible, multistage and single-stage pumps, and is suitable for a wide range of solar water solutions, including livestock watering and irrigation.

The inverter converts DC power output from solar panels to AC power supply for pump operation, and it can be used in both new and existing systems (as long as the motor specifications are compatible).

It is designed for continuous or intermittent operation, and can also easily be switched to main power or a generator as back-up during solar panel disruptions.

Other benefits include that the RSI is resistant to rain, dust and sand, and can handle ambient temperatures up to 60°C.

Advanced MPPT software continuously optimises the system by compensating for environmental effects on the solar panel array, improving power and water output by up to 30%.

The quick “setup Wizard” pairs the RSI quickly with a broad range of Grundfos pumps, and the inverter is equipped with overvoltage, undervoltage, overload, overcurrent, over-temperature and no-load protection.

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SBA: pumping clean water for domestic use

Drought, water scarcity, remote rural locations and a lack of infrastructure mean that many communities around the continent need to rely on rainwater harvesting or boreholes for their household water needs.

In order to achieve this, they need a submersible pressure pump specifically designed to be used for domestic applications such as pumping clean water from rainwater tanks or shallow private wells.

The new Grundfos SBA submersible pressure pump is designed to do just that. It is built on Grundfos’s proven SB platform, but while the SB needed an external pump controller, the SBA eliminates this need. It conveniently comes with an integrated control unit – making it a complete all-in-one product for reliable water pumping.

Not only is the SBA reliable, easily installed and silent (great for domestic use), it is literally a plug-and-pump solution – once installed and connected to the pipes, all you need to do is switch on the pump.

All SB and SBA pumps are available in two main variants: with an integrated suction strainer or a flexible suction hose with a floating suction strainer that always draws clean water from just below the surface.

Some variants come with a float switch, which offers automatic operation and dry-run protection, stopping when the water level is low.

The pump is built from composite and stainless steel materials that are resistant to corrosion and offers thermal overload protection that immediately stops the pump if it overheats.

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