With limited access to the national grid for electricity and an overarching need to meet access to portable clean water for community and agricultural purposes, Rwanda needs to look away from the ordinary in order to achieve the extraordinary.
Access to clean water which is currently estimated at an average of 75% countrywide is expected to increase to 100% by the year 2018.
Also, arable land under irrigation is expected to more than double during the same period with the purpose of turning subsistence farming dependent on rainfall that characteristic of most Rwandan communities into modern commercial agriculture to significantly increase the sector’s productivity.
This is seen as prerequisite to lifting more people out of poverty in a country where the agriculture sector is the biggest employer, with about 80% of the population.
To meet the water targets, there are two main elements to look at; the availability of water resources from which to extract the necessary volumes and the power needed to pump water to wherever it is required at an appropriate pressure.
The first requirement, many experts will agree is not a huge challenge for Rwanda as the country boasts a good volume of fresh water sources and enjoys a relatively high water table level which makes it easy to extract the natural resource.
Thus the most challenging part remains access to, and the availability of the required power source to pump the water from its source to the point of usage in communities and agricultural fields.
For most of the pumping done in the country, electricity from the national grid where it can be accessed or power from burning hydrocarbons is popularly used, but the costs this has on the nation’s power supply and the costs to nature and people are huge.
This makes it a necessity that other options to avail the required power supply be identified.
Among other feasible options is solar water pumping, a relatively new technology that utilizes the adequate supply of solar energy that Rwanda enjoys in meeting people’s water needs.
Davis and Shirtliff (D&S), a leader in water solutions in Rwanda and the region says the technology is available in the country and has already been tested successfully with some institutions.
According to Joseph Wanene the Country Manager of D&S Rwanda, solar water pumping provides a feasible alternative to addressing water needs for irrigation and access to portable clean water for relatively small communities.
The technology consists of a pump, panel(s), a controller, and then the structures to transport water from the source to the points of use.
The power units (panels) constitute most of the cost of the solar water pumping system and Wanene agrees that the initial investment for this kind of system is higher than if the source of power is grid electricity or hydrocarbon fuels.
“However considering operational costs, the investment in solar water pumping is largely at the beginning of the project but very minimal in the course of operation while other alternatives become more costly in the long run,” he shared.
But besides the operational costs which largely become unaffordable for communities and farmers in case of using grid electricity and diesel or petrol powered pumps, there are numerous other factors that make solar water pumping a more viable option.
Among others, solar water pumping allows for giving access to portable clean water to small rural communities without access to the national grid and for meeting irrigation needs.
Also, using solar water pumping saves the limited power on Rwanda’s national grid to cater for purposes where alternatives are available.
With such needs met through solar water pumping, the grid power can be spared to meet industrialization purposed in addition to other economic activities.
According to D&S, the company has all necessary tools to help set up solar water pumping units of all magnitudes and has been involved in a good number in Rwanda so far.
Also as part of the expertise, Wanene says that D&S has technology to determine how much solar energy can be harvested in a particular area, so as to enable users deploy the right solar water pumping units.
Other offers at D&S
Besides solar water pumping, D&S has for the last ten years been involved in providing water and solar energy solutions in Rwanda and as Wanene scores; the company has a customized solution to address every need within these areas.
Also, the solutions available are not only mega structures like solar water pumps or for big institutions but also solutions for individuals and small institutions are on offer at D&S.
Such solutions include water treatment units that can be utilized in homes and in other establishments such as hotels and restaurants to provide clean mineralized drinking water so as to further save power and efforts oftentimes spent on boiling drinking water.