A never-ending supply of fresh water is crucial to raising happy, healthy cattle. And solar water pumps (solars) are essential to providing that never-ending supply of fresh water, as well as, remaining sustainable. Solars are especially vital during this time of year when it can be hot, dry, and calm. This year the transition from summer to fall has been unusually hot and calm, resulting in a lack of pumping windmills and a whole lot of solar moving. Moving solars – not my favorite job.
Moving solars wouldn’t actually be too bad if there weren’t SO many steps for a scatterbrain, such as myself, to forget. I fully understand the importance of getting them set up correctly, just as I completely recognize my weakness in the area of focus. That is why I came up with this extremely helpful, albeit lengthy, checklist for moving solars.
Put your big girl pants, and gloves, on. I need my big girl pants because though we are fortunate to live in the Sandhills (right above the Ogallala Aquifer) some wells are deep and take a fair bit of elbow grease to pull up. Not to mention, the panels we have to pick up, and set up, with every move are a little heavy and a lot awkward.
Turn off the solar, release and remove the ratchet strap. Turning off the solar is the second step because it allows the water in the hose to drain back into the well. Pulling up a pump and hose is so much easier when they are empty, especially if you have to pull them up from sixty feet down (like I said, some wells are deep).
Load the panels, and posts, onto the trailer and secure with the ratchet strap. We use small metal panels as a portable fence around the trailer. The fence protects the solar panels that power the pump from rubbing cows, curious calves, and fighting bulls (this won’t be a problem now for a while).
Pull the pump up out of the well, place the pump in its protective tube on the solar trailer, and secure the hose and cord to the trailer. Solar pumps are so important that they get special treatment, riding in a protective tube fashioned out of PVC pipe and old shirts for padding. Some days the treatment is so special that they get to ride in the cab of the pickup so that they don’t freeze.
Double-check the checklist up to this point.
Hook the solar trailer up to the side-by-side ATV, or the pickup, and drive to the new location. You might think this step is a no-brainer, but I have been known to get everything ready to go and then drive off without the trailer… This step is also another reason for the big girl pants and gloves. Sometimes the jack isn’t always high enough to go over the hitch and you have to physically pick the solar trailer up (lift with your legs) to get it hooked up.
Strategically position the trailer next to the tank, and the solar hole (the well), making sure that the solar panels are facing south. Facing the panels south provides the longest, strongest exposure to the sun which is necessary for powering the pump. I struggle with directions (I hear the Sandhills are notorious for direction difficulties), so this has been a tough one for me in the past. But, I am getting better with directions due to my new found awareness of the position of the sun in the sky.
Unfasten the hose, remove the pump from its protective tube, and carefully lower the pump down into the hole, making sure the hose forms an apex from the hole to the tank. This is only mandatory in the winter because a hose with an apex will not freeze, but I do it year round to keep it consistent and hone my apex building skills.
Turn the switch to “On” and wait for water to start pumping. I learned the hard way that waiting and turning on the pump after I’ve unloaded, and set up, everything else is a bad idea that results in more work. If the water isn’t pumping, repositioning the trailer is a whole lot easier before you put the panels up around it…
Unfasten, unload the panels, and set them up around the solar trailer. As I stated above, the panels are used to protect the pump and panels from unruly cattle. Cattle are curious. So, the panels prevent them from pulling the hose out of the tank, resulting in a muddy mess and an empty tank. They also save the solar panels from becoming expensive back scratchers.
Secure the trailer. The trailer must be secured using the ratchet strap around the solar hole, over the frame of the trailer, and around a post on account of a little thing known as wind. Solar panels are great for pumping water, but it turns out, they also make pretty good sails. If the trailer is not secure, it is likely to go for a ride should a strong wind come up.
Double-check the checklist.
Although moving solars is not my favorite job, I do feel like it is not without its perks. I mean, not only do our cattle (and the wildlife, if we are getting technical about it) always have fresh water, but I also get a great workout, and I am getting better with my directions.