Project Examples

Design of a PV water pumping system for the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in AZ

Course: 22.527 Solar Systems Engineering
Semester: Spring 2008
Instructor: John Duffy
Partner:Tohono O’odham reservation

The Tohono O’odham is an Indian reservation in the southwestern region of Arizona that borders Mexico. It houses a population of about 11,400 members. Some members live in regions where potable water and electricity are readily available, but most of the people in the reservation do not have access to these amenities. Nevertheless, the students at the tribal college at the reservation (TOCC) have been working to provide better living conditions: they have constructed (with their carpentry, electrician and plumbing skills) modular bathrooms that contain sinks, showers and toilets. The University of Massachusetts Lowell is to contributing to this project its solar engineering skills in order to complement the skills from the TOCC with technologies that will ensure the sustainability of the projects in a land where the balance with nature is a priority.

At the Tohono O’odham Indian reservation in Arizona there are many families that live in such remote regions that no running water is available for daily use by the people, and therefore only outhouses exist for bathroom needs. Currently, the students at the Community College (TOCC) are building bathroom modules that will be used by these families, but currently, no local source of water is available for these bathrooms. Therefore the students from the Solar Systems Engineering course started their project by determining a water pump that could pump water from 300ft below the surface of the earth up to water tanks located on top of a bathroom module. The students then, using the irradiation data from nearby towns, determined how many solar panels would be needed to power the pump. These students also tested the panels available at the Solar lab as a basis of their sizing analysis, giving them a practical exercise to their knowledge.

Donated PV panels are being shipped in November 2009 to the TO reservation for eventual use with the water pumping station, with potential use on the new TOCC campus, where the water is a reported 300 ft. below the surface.