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Performance Characterization of a Wind-Powered Water Pump for Use in

Rural Bolivia

E. P. Reznicek, E.I.
and A.C. Elmore, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Kansas, 3138 Learned Hall,
1530 W. 15
St., Lawrence, KS 66045; PH (785) 305-0044; email:
Professor of Geological Engineering; 129 McNutt Hall, 1400 N. Bishop Ave.,
Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO 65409; PH (573) 341-
6784; FAX (573) 341-6935; email:

Wind energy has been used for hundreds of years to provide people with
potable and irrigation water. Today it is still used in developing parts of the world,
where electricity and fossil fuel technology are too scarce, expensive, or difficult to
maintain to provide a sustainable means of pumping water. The objective of this
paper is to characterize the performance of a Hamburg Germany EWB designed wind
pump. Specifically, the paper aims to express the flow rate and head rise of the wind
pump relative to wind velocity. A wind pump was constructed and tested to
determine these relationships. Results indicate that the relationship between flow rate
and wind velocity is linear, as is the relationship between flow rate and angular
velocity of the wind pump rotor. The relationship between head rise and wind
velocity appears to be quadratic. With average wind velocities of 2.5 to 4 m/s, the
pump can displace approximately 0.2 to 1.4 L/min of water, and provide a head rise
of approximately 8 to 24 meters. This type of characterization of wind pumps could
allow for proper placement of wind pumps and storage tanks given regional wind
resource data.


In many developing parts of the world, the availability of drinking water and
irrigation water is scarce or non-existent. Mayori (2013) describes how in rural
Bolivia, water sources are located far from homes and communities, and people have
to walk long distances to retrieve water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and irrigating
crops. Other parts of the world, such as Central America and Africa, share this
problem (Granich and Elmore 2009; Harries 2002). Installing ground water pumps
can reduce manual labor required for obtaining water. Omer (2000) states that in
Sudan, grid electricity is generally not available in rural areas, and that fossil fuels
such as diesel fuel are also often unsustainable, as they require engines and trained
technicians for maintenance and repair. He thus recommends consideration of
renewable sources of energy, particularly wind. Granich and Elmore (2009) studied
the feasibility of using wind and solar power to generate electricity for pumping
water in Guatemala, and found that the installation and maintenance costs for
implementing a renewable energy system capable of sufficiently pumping ground
water outweighed the benefits. Omer (2000) compared costs of operating diesel
pumps versus mechanical wind pumps in Sudan, and found that wind pumps were
more economically feasible. He also concluded that research in wind machines for
pumping water should focus on use of local skill and locally available materials.
Valds (2001) describes methods for building mechanical wind pumps for
developing nations. He echoes Omer in stating that such altruistic projects are more
sustainable when they can be built and maintained by locally trained technicians
using locally available materials. With this same idea in mind, an Engineers Without
Borders chapter from Hamburg, Germany designed a wind-powered water pump for
use in rural Bolivia (EWB-undated). The design consists of a simple Savonius wind
turbine that mechanically powers a reciprocating positive displacement pump. The
wind pump was designed with the intent that all of the materials could be locally
sourced in rural Bolivia, and individuals in Bolivia could be trained to build and
maintain the system.
Mayori (2013) says that wind pumps of this type could be useful for pumping
water uphill to storage tanks, for later distribution. However, for proper placement of
pumps and storage tanks, information on both wind resources and wind pump
performance are necessary. A literature review yielded no information on wind pump
performance curve characterization.
The objective of this project was to determine the basic performance
characteristics of the Hamburg-EWB designed wind pump. These characteristics
include the wind pump flow rate and head rise relative to wind velocity. To address
these objectives, researchers constructed and tested a wind pump during J une and
J uly of 2013 on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus.


The wind-powered water pump was built according to the instructions
provided by the Hamburg Engineers Without Borders chapter, primarily using
materials expected to be locally available in rural Bolivia (EWB-undated). The wind
pump was designed to use a Savonius rotor. According to Akwa et al. (2012),
Savonius wind turbines are vertical axis turbines that operate due to drag forces on
their buckets. The buckets of this Savonius wind turbine are made out of metal
barrels cut in half, which are attached to end caps made of plywood. A shaft runs
down the center of the rotor. Wind creates a drag force on the Savonius rotor, which
is greater on the concave side of the bucket as viewed from the upwind direction. As
a result, the entire rotor and shaft rotates.
This shaft turns a simple reciprocating piston positive displacement pump.
The piston consists of rubber seals secured to a long threaded rod by steel nuts. The
rotor turns a crank attached to the threaded rod. This moves the piston back and forth
in a cylinder. The cylinder is attached to a pipe tee set between two check valves. The
entire rotor and pump assembly are held in place by a large wooden frame.
Construction of the wind pump took place between J une 10 and J uly 12, 2013.
The wind pump was built using the instructions provided by the Hamburg EWB
Chapter, though a few modifications were necessary. The frame was constructed first.
It was built out of 4 x 4 and 2 x 4 pieces of pressure treated lumber, and held together
by 0.5 inch diameter bolts, threaded rods, and 3 inch screws. Two braces were
grouted 2.5 feet in the ground. Two 12 foot tall uprights were bolted to these braces.
The anchor consists of two 0.25-inch galvanized steel cables, one attached to each
upright post. Either end of each cable extended down at an angle to the ground. The
cable was attached on either end to a piece of galvanized steel chain grouted 2.5 feet
into the ground. The rotor was mounted to the frame using 1.5 inch bearings mounted
in bearing flanges. See Figure 1.
The rotor was constructed from two 55-gallon barrels, plywood (for the end
caps), a 1.5 inch diameter piece of electrical conduit, strut channel, angle brackets,
bolts, and screws. A precision ground shaft was attached on either end of the
electrical conduit with a bolt, to go through the bearings mounted to the frame. The
Hamburg EWB specifications were modified to accommodate the larger barrels
available for the experimental wind machine. The overall rotor area is 44 inches wide
by 71inches high. See Figures 1 and 2.

The power produced by the rotor turns the crank to operate the reciprocating
pump. As described by Karassik et al. (2008), the piston operates within a cylinder
connected to a pump chamber (in this case a pipe tee) situated between two check
valves; the inlet (or suction) valve and the outlet (or discharge) valve. Flow of fluid
through the pump occurs in a transitory dynamic condition known as a pumping
cycle. This cycle is initiated by the movement of the piston. As the piston withdraws
from the cylinder, the volume inside the cylinder increases. This results in a decrease
in pressure, which causes the suction valve to open, allowing fluid to flow into the
cylinder. The suction valve closes as the velocity of the piston decreases to zero
toward the back of the suction stroke. The piston then reverses direction, starting the
discharge stroke. The fluid inside the cylinder compresses until the cylinder pressure
exceeds the discharge pressure enough for the discharge valve to open. The discharge
valve then opens, fluid flows out, and the cycle starts over again.
The pump built for this apparatus consists of 5 primary parts: the crank and
rod, the piston/plunger, the pump chamber, the inlet check valve, and the outlet check
valve. Figure 3 shows the crank, which consists of an angle bracket that attaches to
the rotor shaft using two bolts, and to a block of wood using a bearing and bolt. The
Figure 1. Complete wind pump. Figure 2. Rotor.
distance from the center of the rotor shaft to the center of the bearing (the effective
crank length) is 1.5 inches. Though the rotor shaft is 1.5 inches in diameter, 0.25
inches were ground off to allow the bracket to be attached against a flat surface. The
rod is a piece of all thread threaded into the block of wood. The rod extends from the
block of wood 22.5 inches, or 26.8 inches from the center of the bearing. Figure 4
shows the piston, which consists of two U-cup seals held on by 6 stainless steel nuts
and two stainless steel washers.
The piston fits into a 0.75 inch diameter, 6 inch long schedule 80 PVC
cylinder. This cylinder is threaded into a schedule 80 PVC tee. Together the cylinder
and tee make up the pump chamber. On the either side of the tee is a PVC check
valve. Teflon tape was placed around all threaded components to prevent leaks.
Water is drawn through a 0.5 inch inner-diameter hose to the bottom check valve, and
is expelled out of the top check valve. The pump is mounted on a stand constructed of
2 x 4 pieces of lumber, placed such that at top dead center, the end of the rod reaches
to the end of the 6 inch cylinder. The effective stroke length is twice the crank radius,
or 3.5 inches. Thus, the effective chamber volume is 1.33 in
, or 21.82cm

Figure 5 shows that immediately above the top check valve is another PVC
tee that contains a pressure gauge. Above this is a PVC ball valve, followed by an
elbow that directs water into another 0.5 inch ID hose. The ball valve may be
partially closed to simulate pumping against higher levels of head; the pressure gauge
reads the pressure of the water immediately above the pump, which is equivalent to
the pressure that would be created by the head rise across the pump.
The two objectives for the experimental procedure were to identify the
relationship between flow rate and wind velocity and the relationship between head
rise and wind velocity. For each test, wind velocity data was recorded using a data
logger and an anemometer set at 3 m elevation. The data logger recorded time and 5-
second averages of wind velocity. Flow rate and head data were collected over
periods of time (for example, from 14:35:45 to 14:40:45). The time frame was used to
identify the wind velocities during the time interval as recorded by the data logger.
Flow rate and head could then be compared to wind velocity.
The objective of the flow rate test was to characterize flow rate with wind
velocity at low levels of head. This test was performed as follows: water was pumped
Figure 3. Rotor shaft and crank. Figure 4. Piston and pump.
Figure 6. Pump mounted on mill. Figure 5. Pressure control system.
into a 5-gallon bucket for short increments of time. For most tests this increment was
5 minutes; for a few tests a slightly shorter or longer time interval was used so that
large fluctuations in wind velocity did not have too large an effect on average wind
velocity. The start and end time were recorded. At the end of the time interval, the
volume of water pumped was measured. This process was repeated 32 times. For
each test, the volume of water was divided by the exact time interval to obtain an
average flow rate. Wind velocity data was retrieved from the data logger. The wind
velocity over each time interval was averaged and matched to the corresponding
average flow rate. Each test thus resulted in one data point of average wind velocity
and average flow rate.
The objective of the flow rate versus rpm test was to determine the hydraulic
characteristics of the pump alone. The pump was mounted sideways to a block of
wood mounted on the table of a milling machine as shown on Figure 6. A fitting was
machined for the milling machine for the crank bracket to attach to; this fitting was
1.5 inches in diameter, like the rotor shaft. The pump was positioned 26.8 inches
away from the fitting, the same distance it was positioned away from the rotor shaft
on the actual pump. The pump was primed, and a hose placed from a bucket full of
water into the intake side of the pump. Another hose ran from the discharge side of
the pump into a separate bucket.
The milling machine was used to turn the crank at a constant velocity. This
velocity was varied from 55 rpm to approximately 100 rpm in roughly 5-rpm
increments. Eleven data points were collected for flow rate at each rpm increment.
For each data point, water was pumped into an empty bucket for exactly two minutes.
The volume of water was then measured using a graduated two liter bucket, and flow
rate was calculated by dividing the volume by two minutes. Fifty-five rpm was the
lowest velocity the milling machine would run at; 100 rpm was the highest velocity
tested as it was an appropriate approximation of high wind velocities.

The objective of the head test was to characterize maximum head rise with
wind velocity. The pressure gauge and ball valve (described above) were used for this
test. When the ball valve was shut about 95 percent, the pressure below the valve
increased. This pressure pulsed from zero (during the intake stroke) to a maximum
pressure during the discharge stroke. A clock was set next to the pressure gauge, and
a video camera was set in front of the pressure gauge and clock, recording both as the
wind pump worked. This data was collected for intervals of approximately one
minute. Researchers recorded and averaged the pressure values over the time interval
observed in the video. Wind velocity values for the time interval were obtained from
the data logger and also averaged. This process was repeated 17 times, and each test
yielded one data point of average wind velocity and average pressure.
Munson et. al (2009) gives the relationship between discharge pressure and
head rise in the energy equation:


Where p
and p
are the pressure at the pump inlet and exit, y is the specific weight
of water, z
and z
are the elevations of two bodies of water, I
and I
are the fluid
velocities at the pump inlet and exit, and g is the gravitational constant.
Differences in elevation and velocities are small, so this reduces to


If the pump is pumping from a body of water at ground level to a higher elevation,
the pressure on the intake side of the pump can also be neglected. This yields


This equation gives the relationship between the pressure read at the gauge and the
head rise provided by the pump.


Figure 7 shows the results of the flow rate versus wind velocity test. Wind
velocity is shown in meters per second while flow rate is shown in liters per minute.
The data collected show a linear relationship between flow rate and wind velocity.
The start-up velocity of 1.88 m/s was estimated from the Figure 7 y-axis intercept.
However, field observations indicated that the actual start-up velocity is closer to 2.5
The data collected covers a brief spectrum of wind velocities, from
approximately 2.3 to 3.8 meters per second. Note that these are averages; wind
velocities as high as almost 6 meters per second contribute to the average value of the
higher wind velocity data points. Because the data for this project was collected in the
low wind season of Missouri, it was not possible to determine flow rates at higher
wind velocities. However, the data does show that average wind velocities as low as
2.3 m/s and up to 4 m/s are sufficient to pump water. According to Transportadora de
Electricidad S.A. (2008), average annual wind velocities in the province of La Paz,
Bolivia range from 2 to 5 m/s, so the wind pump could operate effectively in this part
of Bolivia as well.
The size of the pump components plays a considerable role in determining the
flow rate of the pump. The pump was built as designed, with a 0.75 inch diameter
cylinder. No dimensions were specified for the crank radius and the rod length. To
avoid excessive contact between the rod and the cylinder wall at the opening of the
cylinder, a crank radius of 1.5 inches and a rod length of 26.8 were chosen. This
resulted in a stroke length of 3 inches and a volume of 1.33 in
displaced by each
stroke. A large pump diameter perhaps 1 to 2 inches would displace more water,
and would perhaps be a better match for the wind pumps rotor.
Figure 8 shows the results of the flow rate versus RPM test. Like flow rate
versus wind velocity, flow rate is also linearly related to angular velocity. According
to Karassik et. al (2008), a typical reciprocating pump performance plot features flow
rate versus crank angular velocity (rpm) and/or power. Data on power supplied by the
milling machine during testing was not available, and could thus not be plotted
against flow rate. However, Figure 8 provides some reference for the performance of
the wind pump compared to conventional reciprocating pumps. Together with Figure
7, it provides a relationship between flow rate, wind velocity, and crank /rotor angular

Figure 9 shows the results of the head test. Wind velocity is shown in meters
per second and head rise is shown in meters. The relationship appears to be a second
order polynomial. This behavior was expected, as the kinetic energy of wind is
proportional to the square of wind velocity.
In addition, head rise across a pump is related to energy by the energy
equation, Equation (1). Head rise is an important pump characteristic; it allows one to
estimate the lift a pump can provide. For this wind pump, Figure 9 can be used to
estimate maximum lift for a given average wind velocity. According to Munson et. al
(2009) the relationship between head rise and maximum lift is expressed in the pump
system equation:

= z

is the sum of head losses.
Figure 7. Flow rate versus wind velocity. Figure 8. Flow rate vs. RPM.
Figure 9. Head rise vs. wind velocity.
It should be noted that the
maximum pressure the pump can pump to
is approximately 55 psi, or about 6.89 kPa,
corresponding to about 39 meters of head
rise. This limitation is due to the low
strength of the 0.25 inch diameter all
thread; at water pressures of around 55 psi,
the rod begins to buckle. A stronger and/or
larger diameter rod is recommended for
future testing.
The potential for the pump to lift
water from a water source such as a spring
or river to a storage tank was calculated
for a hypothetical situation. For this
exercise minor losses were ignored, the
flow was assumed laminar, and all flow
was assumed directly vertical (in other
words, the pipe length is equal to the elevation difference). To find the elevation
difference, Equation (4) can be rewritten as:


Ignoring minor losses, the sum of all head losses equals the major loss:



Where f is the friction factor, l is the pipe length, D is the pipe diameter, V is the fluid
velocity, and g is the gravitational constant (Munson et. al 2009). If we assume that
is level with the pump, then l = z
= lit. Assuming laminar flow,


Where Re is the Reynolds number of the fluid, described by

Rc =


where p is the density of water and p is the dynamic viscosity of water.
Velocity and flow rate are related by the equation

I =


where A is the cross sectional area of the pipe. Equation (9) can be substituted into
Equations (8) and (6), and Equation (8) can be substituted into Equation (7), which
can also be substituted into Equation (6), which in turn can be substituted into
Equation (5). Rearranging and solving for z



For a given average wind velocity, head rise and flow rate can be determined from
Figures 7 and 9, and plugged into Equation (10) to determine maximum average lift.
Consider a case where the average wind velocity is 3.4 m/s and the pipe
diameter is 1 inch, or 0.0254 meters. From Figure 9, the predicted head rise is 13.8 m,
and from Figure 7, the predicted flow rate is 1.08 L/min, or 1.79 1u
/s. At
2u the density of water is 998.2 kg/m
and the dynamic viscosity is 1.uu2
(Munson et. al, 2009). With such low flow, major loss is negligible, and
Equation (10) yields an estimated lift of 13.8 m.
It should be noted that the seals used for the piston were manufactured U-cup
seals. Similar seals could be fabricated out of found materials, but the quality of
fabrication would significantly affect pump performance. The seals used in this
device were also lubricated with grease that significantly affected pump performance.


The data collected for the flow rate test show a linear relationship between
flow rate and wind velocity. Likewise, the data collected for the flow rate versus
angular velocity test show a linear relationship between flow rate and angular
velocity. A second order polynomial curve was fit to the data for the head rise test.
This performance characterization can be used to design water pumping systems
given wind velocity estimates, the availability of water, and site characteristics such
as elevation of the irrigated fields relative to the elevation of the wind pump location.
Overall, the pump displaces low quantities of water compared to conventional pumps.
This is primarily due to the small pump diameter, the low amount of energy available
in low wind velocities, and the low coefficient of performance of Savonius wind
turbines. Investigation into a more appropriately sized pump has yet to be completed.
It should be noted, however, that the low flow rate also results in low head loss in the
piping system. Investigation also showed that piston seal lubrication played a
significant role in pump performance.
Suction head was not characterized for this wind pump. This would be an
appropriate test to perform, especially if the pump or a similar machine were going to
be used to extract water from a well or a river with a high bank. The relationship
between flow rate and power was also not characterized, nor the relationship between
power output of the rotor and wind velocity. In general, more research is
recommended, both on the Hamburg designed pump and on similar devices.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under award EEC-

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