Photovoltaics for center-pivot irrigation


From pv magazine Brazil

Brazilian cotton producer Sementec's Dom Perignon farm in São Desidério, Bahia, has doubled its harvest with a pioneering irrigation project powered by solar and thermal energy.

The irrigation project was made possible by Brazilian PV project developer Loop Energia. The system is supplied through eight artesian wells, seven central pivots, and three storage pools with a total capacity of 600 million liters of water. It is served by an internal and private 34.5 kV medium-voltage network over a distance of 21 km.

The 1.2 MW off-grid PV plant features 545 kW bifacial modules from JA Solar, with half-cell technology. The 2,210 panels are connected to nine PHB brand inverters, aggregated to a thermal energy system consisting of five motors – three 700 kW motors and two 550 kW motors.

“With more than 900 hectares of soybean plantation, the farm embraced sunlight as an additional stimulus to increase productivity and reduce production costs,” Loop Energia CEO Luvânio Lopes told pv magazine. “Together with thermal energy, it offers energy security, a key and challenging point in the western region of Bahia.”

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The company used controllers from Danish company Deif for smart grids. The devices control the available generating sources and meet the customer's load-demand needs.

“This smart integration not only ensures energy security, but also optimizes the operations of the system, resulting in more stable and sustainable agricultural production,” said Bruno Lopes, an electrical engineer and partner at Loop Energia.

The CEO noted the significant gains achieved with the project, including energy efficiency and a reduction in diesel consumption of up to 70%. Previously, diesel expenditures amounted to 4,000 liters per day – approximately 120,000 liters per month. This has since dropped to just 1,000 liters per day, representing savings from a four-month harvest, which is equivalent to BRL 2 million ($388.734).

The implementation of smart-grid technology has enabled higher productivity, increasing the soybean harvest from 40 to 60 bags per hectare to more than 100 bags, resulting in an increase in productivity that exceeds BRL 5 million.

“The delivery of the work and the start of generation at the plant took place last October,” said the CEO. “The project meets 100% of the property’s needs and prevents the harvest from being lost in times of water crisis.”

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