By Eric Macias
With all the new technology in solar powered pumping systems, many water well system professionals are not sure where to invest time when it comes to selling a solar solution to their customers.
Sure, livestock watering has been the main application for solar pumps in the United States, but there are endless
opportunities for other applications that will lead to sales and healthy margins for water well system professionals.
The best way for professionals to be able to spot, qualify, and win these projects will be educating themselves and their teams on the new capabilities of solar powered pumping systems and how to effectively sell the benefits of a solar pump.
The areas of focus should include training on available system sizes (horsepower, flow, and head); proper sizing; functionality (pressure sensors, level sensors, flowmeters, constant pressure, pressure on/off, and power blending); best practices of installation; cost of ownership; features/benefits; and troubleshooting.
If your team has not been to a class focusing on solar powered pumps in the past 12 months, make sure you’re asking your suppliers to offer these classes. With proper training you will reduce the number of callbacks and bring more dollars to the bottom line.
Classes include a combination of classroom time and hands-on training and can range from four hours to multiple days. My company, LORENTZ US Corp, has an in-depth class that lasts three days.
Know Your Capabilities
Capabilities of solar pumps are now at ¼ hp to 100 hp motors that can drive submersible or surface pumps. The most intelligent systems can do constant pressure, level or flow, and can be controlled in many other ways by flow, level, or pressure setpoints.
Companies using smartphones to interact and set up their controllers give the user a simpler means of programming the controller to meet the customer’s needs.
These platforms are also much more flexible for updating firmware/software as new features and functionality are developed. They also allow for the installer to learn one software platform for the entire horsepower range of ¼ to 100, which reduces the amount of training and decreases the chance for mistakes during setup.
See Figure 1 for an illustration of a few examples of how a controller is programed via a smartphone. There are no codes, pressing up/down arrows, and it is the same layout from ¼ to 100 hp—all making for an intuitive user experience.
Sharing the Power
Hybrid solar powered pumping systems use AC grid power or a standby generator power to supplement power to the system when the sunlight is low, or night-time pumping is needed.
Hybrid systems use 100% of the available power being produced by the solar array, and then based on the demand, blend in the amount of power required to maintain a setpoint.
For example, let’s assume we are trying to pump 300 gpm at 150 feet of total dynamic head down a pipeline that feeds a hydraulic fracturing pond. The demand on the hydraulic fracturing pond is 135,000 gallons per day (evaporation plus actual usage); the pump is producing 300 gpm when the sunlight is at 800 watts per square meter or greater (80%); and our customer wants 135,000 gallons per day pumped into the pond regardless of rain or shine.
See Figure 2. We’ll need to select to control the system on flow and have the pump value 135,000 per day. The generator will start to automatically power the pump to achieve the desired amount if the pump has not achieved the goal using only solar.
With all these control options, solar powered pumps can operate as a variable frequency drive, plus often do more with no need to run power lines, maintain generators, or pay a power bill.
The best of class solar pump controllers are field repairable. We all know when a system goes down while watering high-value crops, providing water for hydraulic fracturing, or thirsty humans—time is of the essence.
We can’t wait two to three weeks for the factory to repair the drive and customers rarely want to spend the money to replace the entire controller when a small part will cost a fraction of the price. So, pick options affordable to service with short lead times on parts and you will have happy customers.
Less Frustrating Troubleshooting
Troubleshooting pumping systems can be frustrating, time consuming, and costly. Your reputation is also on the line because the more customer visits you make, the worse you look, eroding the customer’s confidence in your ability to provide them with a reliable system.
Solar powered pumping systems are leading the industry with connected products that help water well system professionals be more efficient at diagnosing the root cause of failure.
Imagine getting a phone call from a customer who just bought a $20,000 system, saying the system is down and it is one and a half hours to the jobsite. Obviously, he is going to want answers.
And with connected products, you might be able to provide them without leaving your office or taking the 10T pump rig to the site. This improved troubleshooting ability will reduce nuisance site visits and reduce the amount of time spent diagnosing the problem.
The screen shots in Figure 3 could be texted or emailed to you by your customer, allowing you to know what the problem is before you leave the office.
In this case, the system has a pressure sensor that tells the pump to turn on/off based on pressure (off at 30 PSI/on at 15 PSI). The analog error means the pressure sensor is not returning a signal to the controller or the
controller’s IO board is not functioning properly. Now before you leave the shop you can simply take the two parts you might need to the jobsite, meaning everything can be efficiently taken care of in one trip.
In summary, don’t be left behind. See the light. Get the proper training by a solar pumping expert and start winning your share of profitable projects.
Eric Macias is the chief operating officer of LORENTZ US Corp in Slaton, Texas. He is an active COO, involved daily with partners and customers. He continues to run training and advocacy sessions for both LORENTZ partners, government departments, and interest groups. He can be reached at email@example.com.