Earlier this week ASPI hosted a solar water pump workshop presented by Josh Bills. This was not a Grow Appalachia workshop, but it was very relevant since we’ll be using the pump for our garden! Josh is on ASPI’s board of directors and he works for MACED (Mountain Association for Community Economic Development) in Berea. He is a great resource for solar energy, and we were very fortunate to have him present this workshop.

During the workshop, Josh covered the basics of water pumps and how they function. Workshop attendees shared why they were interested in the topic and how they would like to apply solar pumps at home whether it be for rain barrels in the garden or even an outdoor shower.

Then, we went outside to see first hand how a solar water pump works. Josh is building a portable water pump on a dolly for ASPI that will include a solar panel, battery, and water pump. The pump will be hooked up to ASPI’s large water cistern for us to water the garden, and participants will also be able to check out the pump to take home and use in their own garden.

Workshop attendees were able to play around with the position of the solar panel to maximize the effectiveness of the pump. Even a slight change in the angle of the panel or covering part of it with a hand would make a noticeable difference in how well the pump would work.


In order to obtain the best location for the panel, Josh demonstrated how a solar pathfinder works. This is basically a more sophisticated sundial you set up outside that shows you how much sunlight you will get in a given spot. We were using it to determine which direction to angle the panel, but it will also tell you how much sunlight you will get in that spot throughout the year. Not only is it useful for setting up solar panels, you could also use it to figure out a good spot for your garden. You can find a spot that won’t be blocked by tree branches or other shadows.

We had a great workshop learning about how we can use solar-powered water pumps in the garden. If you’re interested in the sustainability workshops ASPI offers, make sure to check out our website: http://www.appalachia-spi.org/workshops-classes-hikes-and-more.html