Techno-Economic Feasibility Study of Solar and Wind Based Irrigation Systems in Northern Colombia

Water pumping systems powered by solar and wind energy are a clean, decentralized and economic alternative for the irrigation of crops. The intense droughts experienced in the last years in Northern Colombia due to particularly strong Niño Phenomena have reactivated the need of reliable water pumping irrigation systems in that region. This study aims to assess the techno economic feasibility of solar and wind based pumping irrigation system, taking as case study the Municipality of Piojó in the Atlántico department. In the first stage of the study the irrigation water requirements were determined by using the software CROPWAT based on two different crop patterns that represent existing feasible alternatives for small farmers of the region: i) a common crop pattern, which represent the current average distribution of crops for subsistence farming and ii) a fruit cash crop pattern that comprises crops for which well established markets in the region exist. Solar wind and diesel based pumping systems were sized based on the crop water demands for 1 ha. The unit irrigation costs of the three technologies, the two crop patterns and the three irrigation methods (surface, sprinkler and drip) were calculated and compared. The economical analysis was complemented with a cost-benefit analysis over 20 years. Our results show that both renewable energy based pumping systems (wind and solar) can cover the irrigation water demands of small farmers in the region. The economical analysis shows that windmills are the most cost effective solution followed by the solar pumping system. Diesel pumping system was the less cost effective, even though it does not comprise investment in water storage tank. The cost benefit analysis demonstrates that any irrigation system is financially unfeasible when providing water to a common crop pattern. In case of the fruit cash crop scenario the highest dividends were obtained by the wind pumping system and the lowest dividends by the diesel pumping system. The lowest payback period was obtained by the windmill after 7 years and could be even feasible after the fifth year if the surplus water would be used to irrigate larger areas. Dividends obtained in a fruit cash crop scenario with irrigation after 20 years were in the range of €5200 and €11200 higher than dividends obtained by the same crop pattern but without irrigation.
Javier Alberto Cuellar Bolaños, Willington Ortiz and Ramchandra Bhandari
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