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W. Cully Hession, P.E.

Professor of Biological Systems Engineering


Virginia Tech
204 Seitz Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Subject: NRHF Solar Watering System Potential Solutions Analysis

Dear Professor Hession,

Enclosed is the NRHF senior design teams analysis of potential solutions report. This analysis
was created to compare three different design alternatives for the solar powered pumping system
that is to be implemented at the New River Hill Farm. The three alternatives are the use of solar
power with (1) battery, (2) reservoir, or (3) well system as backup for days when solar energy is
limited or unavailable. The report includes a decision matrix that will be considered during the
selection of the final design solution. Additionally, recommendations for further exploration of the
selected design are included.

Please contact us with any questions, concerns, or comments.

Sincerely,

Colby Dechiara Riley Finn Suraye Solis Kathryn Sledd

Enclosure: Analysis of Potential Solutions Report


NRHF Solar Watering System
Technology Review
December 6 2016

BSE 4125 Senior Design

Team: NRHF

Members:
Colby Dechiara
Riley Finn
Kathryn Sledd
Suraye Solis

Advisors:
John Ignosh (Extension)
Sharyl Ogle (NRCS)
Gene Yagow (Faculty)
Introduction
New River Hill Farm (NRHF) is operated by the New River Soil and Water Conservation
District (SWCD). NRHF is in need of a new water distribution system for livestock watering and
a greenhouse because the current system utilizes water from the well that also provides for the
farmhouse, affecting flow to the farmhouse. Therefore, a new system with an alternative source of
water is needed; the client, SWCD, has requested that the system employ solar power and utilize
two ponds on site as the new sources of water. The goal of the NRHF Team is to design a solar-
powered watering system that provides the required daily demand (volume) of water for the
greenhouse and the peak flow rate for livestock watering. This report will provide an evaluation
of the potential solutions, described in Potential Solutions, being considered to meet this goal.
The design of the system will require two separate pump systems for each pond: pump
system one and pump system two. System 1 will supply water for both the cattle and the
greenhouse, while pump system 2 will supply water for livestock only. Each system will require
pumping to one reservoir or trough, that will then gravity feed the remaining troughs in that system.
Table 1 describes the requirements of each system. The Virginia Watering SystemsPressure-
Energy/Gravity Flow Worksheet was used to determine various parameters in the table. Figure 1
(a) and (b) shows pump system 1 and 2, respectively. A new reservoir is currently being
constructed for system 1 at the location of the hoop house; this reservoir is considered in all
calculations and potential solutions development. The trough labelled Trough 1 in system 2 is
being used as a reservoir to gravity feed the remaining three troughs in the system.

Table 1. Requirements of pump system 1 and 2 used in determining potential design solutions.
Pump System 1 Pump System 2
Number of troughs 8 3
Daily demand for cattle, L/s (gpd) 0.03 (750) 0.03 (750)
Daily demand for greenhouse, L/s (gpd) 0.002 (53) 0
Elevation head, m (ft) 30.2 (99.2) 35.5 (116.6)
Pressure/Total Dynamic Head (TDH), m (ft) 32 (104) 36 (118)

(a) (b)
Figure 1. Pump system 1 (a) and pump system 2 (b) at NRHF.
Potential Solutions
As previously stated, the SWCD is requesting that solar power be utilized in the design of
the new watering systems. Consequently, it remains a key component of the potential solutions,
with pumps, controller, and backup system being selected for compatibility with solar energy. Two
types of pumps are discussed in this section: centrifugal and positive displacement. Moreover,
three potential solutions are described; these solutions focus on the backup technology used on
days where there is limited to no sunlight. By rule of thumb, all backup options are expected to
provide sufficient water at the proper flowrate for three days with no sunlight. The first solution
uses batteries to store solar energy; the batteries will provide peak demand during times of
unfavorable weather conditions. The second solution considered is the use of a large reservoir,
which will provide the daily demand of water for three days without sufficient sunlight. Lastly,
the third potential solution requires the present system, connected to the farmhouse, to remain
connected to the troughs to provide water when there is limited or no sunlight.

Pumps
Pumps typically paired with solar energy utilize the DC output from solar panels directly,
and do not require an inverter. Solar pumps fall into two large categories: positive displacement
pumps (PDP) and centrifugal pumps. PDPs are used when the total dynamic head (TDH) is high,
but the required flow rate is low. On the other hand, the centrifugal pumps are used when TDH is
low and the flow rate is high. Using the pumping head and the required pumping rate found in
Table 1 of each system, the peak power requirements could be determined for centrifugal pumps
and positive displacement pumps from manufacturer standards, e.g. Morales and Busch (2010).
The peak demand of each system is sufficiently low for a PDP, and the dynamic head (pressure
head) is higher than most centrifugal pumps are capable of overcoming; therefore, a positive
displacement pump is selected for each potential solution. The pumps used in potential solutions
are detailed below.

Table 2. Description of pump used for pump system one and pump system 2 in potential solutions.

Total Dynamic Peak Cost


Pump Potential Solution Flow Rate
Head, m (ft) Power, W (USD)
Dankoff Piston Pump system 2 (battery 36 (120) Peak 364 674.70
Pump Model 3040 & well backup) Demand
ShurFlo 115 VAC Pump system 1
Daily
1.4 GPM Transfer Pump system 2 (reservoir 36 (120) 56 127.24
Demand
Diaphragm Pump backup)

Solar Panels with Battery Backup


The first potential solution is a solar pump system using batteries that would allow for
consistent pumping at night and during cloudy periods, making the system more reliable and
eliminating the need for a reservoir. These systems are atypical due to their high cost, increased
maintenance, and complexity; however, in certain scenarios batteries are preferable. Because
System 1 has the aforementioned reservoir under development, which is large enough to backup
requirements, a battery powered pump is only considered for System 2. This system would be
required to meet peak demand as an alternative to installing another reservoir at pump system 2.
The required pump for system 1 will remain the same in each potential solution, and it is described
in the well backup solution.
A Dankoff Piston Pump Model 3040 is considered for pump system 2 in this potential
solution, and the specifications (The Solar Store) are listed in Table 2. This is the cheapest option
found to pump the required peak flow rate. Blacksburg solar insolation values were referenced for
further calculations (Boxwell, 2016). Cattle are kept between the months of March and October,
so the lowest solar insolation occurring during this period was used for calculations (3.49
kWh/m2/day). To pump for 30 minutes three times per day the pump would require 0.549
kWh/day. A Topoint JTM190-72M 190W solar panel was the cheapest option found that can be
used with 24 V batteries, and it does not require a charge controller (SEP, 2016; TopointSolar,
2013). For a panel with efficiency of 14.9% and a performance ratio of .75, 4.22 m 2 of panels are
needed. Each panel has an area of 1.27 m2, so four panels would be required. Using an online
battery bank calculator and allowing for 3 days of pumping without sunlight, a battery bank
capacity of 6.638 kWh or 244 Amp-hrs is required. A Crown 430 AH 12VDC 5, 160 Wh Battery
Bank can supply the necessary power for $700 (Topointsolar, 2016).

Solar Panels with Well Backup


The second potential solution is simply using the solar energy to power both pump systems
on days where sufficient solar insolation is available, and allowing for the current system, which
draws water from the well that supplies the house, to be used as the backup during cloudy days
and nights. As previously stated, the low flow rate and high elevation head make it beneficial to
use a PDP. System 1 would require the pump to meet the daily demand of 51 L/s (803 gpm), which
is a sum of the daily demand for cattle and greenhouse found in Table 1. It was determined that a
ShurFlo 115 VAC 1.4 GPM Transfer Diaphragm Pump (Morales and Busch, 2012) would
meet the TDH requirements and daily demand, while keeping costs low. Using the same
assumptions of available solar energy as the previous potential solution, system 1 would require
0.084 kWh/day. Assuming 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, an area of 0.888 m2 would provide
sufficient energy. The cheapest available solar panel that will be used is a SP20P 20W Poly-
Cristalline Synthesis Power Module that costs $30.00 (GSG, 2016).
Pump system 2 will require similar pumping for the well backup solution as did the battery
backup solution. This is because pump system two does not have the sufficient reservoir storage
to daily demand in either of these provided solutions. Therefore, it is necessary for the pump to
provide peak flow on the days when there is sunshine available. However, this system is cheaper
because it does not require the batteries mentioned above. As mentioned previously, the current
well system will remain connected to pump system 2, but it will only provide water on days during
times of insufficient sunshine. Assuming 30 minute drinking times for the cattle 3 times per day,
this pump would require 0.546 kWh/day. Using the above assumption for solar energy available,
an area of 3.912 m2 will be needed to generate enough electricity daily, which would require four
solar panels. From the calculations, it can be concluded that any solar panel rated at 125W or
greater can be incorporated into the system; these panels do not require compatibility for battery
backup.

Solar Panels with Reservoir Backup


A third potential solution is to use the solar-powered pumping system when there is
sufficient sunlight and construct a reservoir for each pump system to supply water on days when
sun hours are limited or zero. As was mentioned previously, a reservoir of sufficient size is already
under construction and will be able to hold the 3-day backup water requirement for system 1.
However, a new reservoir is required for pump system 2. Presently, a concrete trough is being used
for this purpose; however, it is not large enough to hold the three days worth of daily demand of
water for the cattle (Table 1). Therefore, this potential solution would require upgrading the current
reservoir at pump system 2 to hold the required water demand. Tire trough sizes typically range
from 1.1 m3 to 6.4 m3 (300-1700 gallons). Therefore, two tire troughs would provide the adequate
storage (Table 1). It may also be possible to use one tire trough as a reservoir in combination with
the existing concrete trough. The use of two troughs provides redundancy in case one trough may
require servicing. The use of tire troughs are recommended because of lower relative costs when
compared to concrete troughs. Additionally, these watering facilities recycle waste material, which
adheres to the farms goal of sustainable agricultural practices. An advantage of tire troughs is
their durability; moreover, they can be made freeze-proof, which provides the added benefit of
lowering required maintenance.
As stated previously, similar design are being considered for pump system 1 in all potential
solutions. Therefore, pump calculations for system 1 for this solution are the same as those outlined
in the well backup potential solution. Furthermore, the TDH of pump system 2 (Table 1) is equal
to 36 m (118 ft). Using Table 2, it is determined that the ShurFlo 115 VAC 1.4 GPM Transfer
Diaphragm Pump used for system 1, can also be used for system 2 because the TDH of the pump
is not exceeded by that of system 2.

Analysis & Criteria


The five criteria selected - initial cost, maintenance, durability, adaptability, and customer
opinion - are found in the decision matrix in Table 3. Initial cost is an important factor because the
full burden will be absorbed by NRHF. Therefore, it was necessary to consider a design that can
constrain the initial cost to a reasonable level for the design to be undertaken by the farm. A
weighted value of 15% was given to this criterion. Maintenance is also considered a necessary
feature because it contributes to upkeep costs of the design and the required man-hours.
Additionally, frequent servicing may reduce the productivity of the farm. Durability is the third
key component. It is important because, similar to maintenance, it is a hindrance to the farm to
constantly repair equipment because it reduces productivity. Furthermore, the purchasing of new
equipment ever so often can become burdensome on the farm. Maintenance and durability were
given equal weights of 15%. Next, adaptability was also considered an important factor; it refers
to the ability of the system to function during unfavorable weather conditions that may extend for
varying lengths of time. It is necessary that the farm still be able to function when available sunlight
is low, such as during rainy or overcast days. These conditions can last for a few hours or a couple
of days; consequently, the adaptability of the design is a key component for the farm to continue
normal operations. Therefore, adaptability was given a weight of 20%. Lastly, the customer
opinion was given a weight of 35% because the client is hoping to use the design as an educational
tool with local farmers and schoolchildren. Additionally, it is important to consider that NRHF has
previously invested in a solar-powered system and strongly desires for it to succeed.
Each criterion was given a score from 1 to 5. A score of 5 = very good, 4 = good, 3 =
neutral, 2 = poor, and 1 = very poor. These ratings were determined based on the expected
performance of each potential solution in each criterion. The scores were multiplied by the weight
and summed to determine the final ranking of each potential solution (Table 3). Final scores are
out of a possible five total points.
Table 3. Final scores based on weighted criteria for each potential solution.

Solar w/ Solar w/ Well Solar w/


Criteria Weight
Batteries Backup reservoir
Initial Cost 15% 1 5 3
Maintenance 15% 2 4 4
Durability 15% 2 5 5
Adaptability 20% 4 5 4
Customer Opinion 35% 3 1 3
Total 100% 2.6 3.5 3.7

The first potential solution that uses batteries received low ratings for initial cost due to the
high cost of batteries. Furthermore, low ratings for maintenance and durability were given because
more servicing as well as regular battery replacement is required, which also increases
maintenance and operating costs. However, this solution is more adaptable as more batteries can
be added to scale up for more cattle or to allow for more dark days, resulting in high marks for that
criterion. Neutral marks were given for the customer opinion because there is not a strong
preference for either system.
The well backup potential solution received high ratings for initial cost because the only
infrastructure necessitating capital is the extension of the existing system to connect with the
reservoir in construction. Maintenance of wells is relatively low, and the life expectancy is long;
therefore, this solution was rated highly in these criteria. The adaptability of the well was rated
very high because it can provide water for long periods without sufficient sunshine; additionally,
it is highly unlikely for the well to run dry during these periods of little sunshine. However,
customer opinion received a very low rating because the client would prefer not to have the
watering system interfere with the availability of water in the farmhouse.
The reservoir backup potential solution received neutral ratings for initial cost because
construction is underway for a reservoir for pump system 1; however, pump system 2 will require
the construction of a new reservoir. Maintenance cost and durability received good ratings because
the proposed reservoir will include precautions to reduce effects of frost; therefore, it will not
require a lot of servicing. The customer opinion was also given a neutral rating because there is no
strict preference or bias towards either the battery or reservoir back up system. Relative costs may
be a consideration for the customer but that has been taken into account in other criteria.

Conclusion
The criteria and ranking demonstrate that the customer opinion, which initially limited the
potential solutions to those utilizing solar-power, plays a large role in the design of the required
water system. The solar-power with batteries scored the lowest of the three design alternatives,
with 2.9 out of 5 points. The low rating for the initial cost and maintenance affected the overall
score. The solar-power system using the current well system as a reserve received a score of 3.5.
It has high ratings for all criteria, except customer opinion. This last criterion was damaging to the
overall score because of the high weight attributed to it. The client wishes to eliminate the
dependence of the farm watering system on the source water that feeds the farmhouse; this factor
is essential to the design and resulted in the low mark seen for the customer opinion. Solar-power
using a reservoir scored the highest at 3.7 of 5 points. This potential solution had the high ratings
for maintenance, durability, and adaptability. The customer opinion was neutral, which placed the
overall score above that of the design alternative using the well system. Using the results of the
decision matrix and the analysis of the potential solutions, the solar-powered pump system using
a reservoir as a backup is recommended as the final design solution for the NRHF watering system.
As this potential solution is explored more, a site shade analysis will be beneficial to determine
the effect on panel selection. Additionally, more exploration into the best pump/controller/solar
PV combination for this solution will be investigated.

References

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