Solar powered irrigation controllers probably aren’t always the best choice, but they could be the perfect option for some jobs.
When easy access to power isn’t available, a solar-based irrigation system can be the perfect solution, said Warren Gorowitz, Ewing Vice President of Sustainability.
For example, solar-powered irrigation made it possible for Ewing volunteers to install an automatic drip irrigation system for Target Hunger’s community gardens in Houston last year.
With no access to permanent power on site, a Hunter XC Hybrid with a Solar Panel Kit made it possible for the Target Hunger to automate their irrigation and save water, said Gorowitz.
When to Use Solar Powered Irrigation
Today solar-powered irrigation is primarily used for temporary irrigation on new construction sites, on road medians and other sites where access to electricity would be too cost prohibitive.
It can also be a good choice when driveways, large trees or other landscape features may prevent new wire paths.
Solar powered irrigation could even appeal to anyone trying to achieve a more sustainable site or those building LEED projects, said Gorowitz.
Nurseries, farms and other sites that do not have access to power can also benefit from solar irrigation, said Mitch Heiner, Ewing’s Irrigation Products Manager.
For the Sacaton Elementary School District’s Legacy Orchard Project, a solar-powered option allowed them to quickly install an irrigation system for a new fruit tree orchard last year that was too far to connect to the school’s electricity. Ewing Chandler manager, Hunter Williams, recommended a solar-powered Hunter Node irrigation controller with solar panel kit for the orchard.
Solar Powered Irrigation Options
Solar-powered irrigation systems range from simple hose-end timers to large commercial site systems.
Besides Hunter’s solar power kit options for their Node and XC Hybrid controllers, other irrigation solar-powered options are available from DIG, Weathermatic and Baseline.
DIG’s LEIT controllers are actually powered by ambient light, making them the best option for sites that may not have a lot of direct sun exposure, said Gorowitz.
DIG’s solar irrigation controllers range from a simple hose-end timer to 4- to 28-station controllers.
For larger irrigation systems, Weathermatic and Baseline offer large solar panels and compatible irrigation controllers and components.
Weathermatic’s SmartLine Solar Irrigation Controller (SL-Solar) is a 48-station controller with solar panel, solar battery assembly, and solar charge control box assembly.
Baseline’s solar irrigation options include Solartech N-Series solar panel and mount, SunSaver charge controller and a range of DC-power compatible irrigation systems components: irrigation controllers, Wi-Fi, cell or Ethernet communication modules, DC latching solenoids and a range of two-wire biCoder products.
Depending on the solar-powered irrigation systems you choose, additional solar batteries and DC latching solenoids may be required so be sure to check and follow the manufacturers’ recommendations, said Gorowitz.
Installing most solar-powered irrigation systems isn’t really more difficult than a typical system but positioning the solar panel to capture the most sunlight can be important, said Heiner.
The Future of Solar Irrigation
In the last five years, the solar market in the U.S. has doubled and a new solar project was installed in the U.S. every 100 seconds in 2018.
While enthusiasm for solar power has been strong in general, the irrigation specific solar market is growing more modestly, Heiner said.
“As long as solar technologies continue to improve and the cost of solar becomes more appealing, it will continue to grow,” said Heiner.
Solar irrigation controllers will also begin to incorporate Wi-Fi app-based control and other smart features as the technology continues to improve, said Gorowitz.
If you are interested in seeing if a solar-powered irrigation system is the right choice for your site, call or visit your local Ewing for help.
Learn more about battery-operated and solar-powered irrigation controller options in this video: