Energy [R]evolution: A Watershed Moment in India

Can your design replace dirty diesel pumps in the fields of India? €30,000 prize pool

Can your design replace dirty diesel pumps in the fields of India?


Particularly in India, many small-scale farmers work in areas where the electric grid is unreliable or nonexistent.  They need to pump water from the ground to irrigate their fields and the ubiquitous diesel pump is the most common choice.  The machines are initially inexpensive, but the rising cost of fuel and negative side effects like air and water pollution make these pumps costly and threatening to farmers’ fragile livelihoods in the long run.
A renewable energy powered pump is a logical solution: its power source is free or low-cost and greenhouse gas emissions are minimal. But the adoption of such pumps both in India and elsewhere remains low. There is currently no pump available on the market that fully meets the needs of the Indian small farmer, with an unsubsidized price low enough to compete with the diesel pumps and be adopted widely.


Task Definition

Design a renewable energy powered and portable water pump that can provide a viable alternative to diesel-driven ones. 
Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Capability: how well does the pump perform compared to existing diesel pumps? How well does it address the current problems (overview here) with renewable energy pumps? 
  • Viability: does the design have broad applicability?  Is it easily usable?  Does it fit into farmers’ lives and work habits, or will it require education? 
  • Affordability: is the design within reach of farmers without relying on government subsidies?
  • Feasibility: how close is the design to being a workable product? Does it require additional technological advances or development?


Target Group

Small and medium-scale Indian farmers in Bihar state.


Mandatory requirements

Besides being powered by clean energy, such a pump or pump kit/system should meet the following requirements to be successful:

  • Portable
    • theft prevention -- farmer can take it inside the house at night and when away
    • can be easily used at different wells / by water merchants
    • easy transport for demonstration and sale in local markets
  • Robust under Bihar climate and rural use conditions, locally serviceable
  • Pump and deliver enough water to irrigate 1 hectare of typical Bihar produce (wheat or vegetables) from a depth of 5m. A micro irrigation water delivery system can be part of the system, but its cost must be included in the total system cost.
  • Total system cost must not exceed “one lakh” Indian rupees (100,000 rupees; ca. US$ 1500 at current exchange rate)
  • Assuming a groundwater table at 5m depth

For more background information on context, target regions, the rationale of these requirements and additional “nice to have” features that will positively impact evaluation of your solutions, please see our series of blog posts, especially this one.
Entries should include a sketch or rendering, expected cost, description of operation, expected water flow, and description of portability. 



There are four Challenge prizes: an Early Bird Prize, a Jury Prize, a Community Prize, and a Consulting Contract. 

EARLY BIRD PRIZE: Two prizes of 1000 Euros will be awarded to the best ideas, as chosen by the jury and Greenpeace, submitted in the first four weeks of the Challenge.  

JURY PRIZE: A panel of Jury Members will select three Jury Prize winners. In order to guarantee successful implementation, we are looking for solvers that are willing to personally participate in the further development of their solution in India, such as prototyping and in field beta-testing / design iteration, and will pursue, with the help of Greenpeace, the scaling-up and commercialization of their pump in India. If you are not willing / capable to fulfill this, please state on top of your idea description: “not eligible for Jury Prize”.

COMMUNITY PRIZE: The Community Prize includes 9000 EUR to be divided among the top 10 ideas as determined by community voting.

CONSULTING PACKAGE: Greenpeace will select one or more Jury Prize winning entries for further development.  The submitters of the Entries will receive a consulting contract with the Organizer of up to 5,000 EUR to support development of prototypes and presentation at a Prototyping Workshop in India. Licensing remains tbd between submitter and manufacturer.

By participating in the challenge, entrants agree to the Official Rules.


Jury and Experts

Similar to other Public Projects, we have an official advisor panel consisting of 12 (!) renowned jurors and 2 subject matter experts that will support you throughout the process. The jury you'll find listed to the right; experts are Emma Jane Bloomfield, Senior Strategist position at Purpose, whose work spans from public engagement strategy to social enterprise solutions, Caroline Howe, who works with communities around the world to develop locally-relevant, financially and socially sustainable solutions to environmental challenges, and Anudeep Yadav, expert and believer in solar energy with an electrical engineering background. 

Besides our Project Guide Jesko who is going to do the Community Management we are happy to introduce Stefan as our new Expert Guide from jovoto's site that will support you with his profound feedback, knowledge and background in energy and process engineering. Say hello to Stefan in our blog here.


And as always, please register / log in in order to participate in the project (submit an idea, comment or vote).


Show all comments (62)

Dear Jesko,
by when can we expect the results?

Kind regards,
Urs Riggenbach


Dear magahugu,

Currently diving deep into monitoring. Community- and Jury winners will be announced this thursday.



anyone claiming more than 50% wire to water efficiency should be asked for supporting data.


u can find bigger off the shelf pumps with sweet spot of 80% efficiency ......not in smaller ones


I just discovered this forum. I feel some need to respond to the cynical discussion about thermal based solar projects.
I have installed successful PV systems for a West African village at the community level.
With larger pumps ( 15,000 gal/ day) and 1.5 kw of solar PV panel, the system was ideal.
We could get a lot of drinking water to people at a good rate and the $10,000 overall price tag was an excellent target for funding. I would do it again!
But... I saw that these systems did not scale down well to the 500-2000 gal/ day needed for hundreds of small farms and gardens on the same area.
Firstly, these communities have no tax base in real estate to support multiple projects.and no fair way to distribute shares of centralized water supplies for market gardens.
Each family needs to control its own water supply for gardening purposes.
They cannot pull from public drinking water supplies.

Yes.. cost is coming down on PV and we are on the edge of contest affordability with that.
But why not work to do even better than $1500 so that we can reach more needy farmers.
My pre-contest goals were to beat $1000 in a complete system.

My greatest concern became the reliability of smaller pumps. I began to burn through every commercial pump less than 1 horsepower in less than 1000 hours.
African friends ran them all into the ground while I did the same in my shop.
And these smaller pumps had a particularly hard time after a season of storage which is common in many wet season areas.

This is what drove me and our team to revisit solar thermal powered systems.
Oddly... The argument that this good old steam technology would have discovered all that could be discovered by now turns out to be very wrong.
Patent reviews revealed that these smaller scale applications based on pneumatic cylinder technology did not arise in the past for two reasons|:
1. No one has spent much energy supplying pumped water in automated systems with these technologies as applied to the poor or to micro scale projects.
Everything in design tends to follow the money and now we find that the huge body of struggling farmers needs whatever technology can best serve them today;
2. Steam piston technology has never before now been able to get light and portable.
Our research showed us that the magic was in the changes in rubber technology of the past 3-8 years. Old steam pistons had to include metal rings like a heavy Diesel engines because the rubber would not stand up to compressed moisture at even. 300 deg F.
That has all changed just recently with the advent if Vitron seals and rings and two other more recent developments now coming into common use.
The manufacturers of this ultra-light technology are contracting with us today to initiate whole new production lines based on these discoveries in solar steam design.

So this IS NEW TECHNOLOGY! WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE OF STEAM. We will be powering pumps, homes and industry with this technology.

Thank you all at Jovoto/ Greenpeace for inspiring us to push these discoveries into the light.


Hi Ben. Good to know that technology is having a revival.
I am a bit puzzled at your experience with small dc pumps. We typically get ~5,000 hours out of our brush-type motors. As you will see in my website testimonials, some of customers have run them seasonally for >10 years. Having said that I also have developed a healthy respect for our friend Murphy's Law, and know that ther may be significant effects of the warmer water typical in the tropical regions.
Best regards, Eric Jensen (


Excellent points, gentlemen. That is exactly the kind of innovation we'd been hoping for. Shows again that the "if it was feasible it would have been done before" is flawed.


One thought on the fly ...
The Romans created their empire, developing hidraulica systems ...
they moved the water without bombs, no one has been able to do it later, and that technology, fall into oblivion ...
Of course, it is the cheapest and efficient existing technology ...
Restudy, the hydraulic systems of Heron has been my summer project ... and the results are amazing ...
Alive the hidraulica ...


Arjun Mundkur

Yes, the world has benefited greatly from fossil fuels in the last 300, but at a tremendous cost – which is why we’re here now trying to find an alternative.

The renewable energy developed today is derived from limited fossil fuel. Solar PV is merely a bandage to extend the life of limited fossil fuel. The era of fossil fuel will be short-lived and a return of steam engines, mirrors and reflective solutions and human powered machines will return. Nuclear energy is not an option considering we still have not solved the waste issue. Also the potential for catastrophe increases as our climate becomes more unstable.

Simple ideas, simple machines and human power have served humanity well for thousands of years!


Dear WaterBuck,
I will be happy if cheaper and simpler tech gets off the ground. Its for all of us to benefit ultimately.
However ground reality human power in India is mostly child labour so instead of going to school you know what they will be forced to do. Women exploited because the cost less to employ. Men get fat discussing politics.
I too hope steam makes a come back, it does have power to deliver provided the required temperatures can be maintained.
But the versatility of electricity is incomparable.
"The renewable device which produces electricity in the most cost effective manner will rule".
It is a single source of energy which can power massive motors to smart phones and of course the internet. Electricity will ensure we don't go back thousands of years to simple ideas, simple machines and human power!


Dear All,

thanks a bunch for your very engaged work and discussion in this purpuseful project for Greenpeace! We are finished with rating monitoring and the Jury took their decision as well.

We are going to announce the community- and Jury winners in a couple of minutes live and synchonised with the Greenpeace event in India.

We are going to publish all information about the winning ideas, Jury discussion and the Event in the blog tomorrow.



Award winners of the jury
at least they should be

you could also put




tweet yesterday had already been told the winners


Thanks for sharing, Tomme!


Hello JesKo
you said this,

or you will release more details?




Dear Tomme!

Right, you will find all information here in the linked blog post.



Congratulations everyone who are winner over here :)
thanks jovoto


can anyone tell me which is cheaper option to transfer money to india paypal or through banks... how much exactly do paypal deducts and banks?


Dear rajatjainstanselmalwar,

I will talk to our account team and send you a private message.



dear jesko
even I have the same issue, how to get money transferred to India?
do I need to fill a w-8ben form or simply PayPal account email will do the work ?
secondly I am a bit confused in Tax Information column.

even for


After more three months of work with this important challenge, I would like to say: “thank you and congratulations to all and it’s only the beginning, there is still a lot."

Thanks to a lot of the challenge heroes, that should have been named in the lists of winners, Thanks to everyone who participated in this challenge.

Thanks: Greenpeace to adopt this important challenge in the field of sustainability, and thank you for leaving the door open for everyone to develop the solutions and ideas.

Thanks: Jovoto to host this challenge and give the opportunity to participate , learn from and interact with it freely, thank you all the community of Jovoto.

Continue with you in developing the solutions of the challenge and the wonderful platform of Jovoto.