Har­ness­ing the power of the sun

MAY’S OR­GANIC GAR­DEN and Restau­rant at Si­tio An­ing in Barangay Pa­hanocoy, Ba­colod City, has started to har­ness the power of the sun by in­stalling a so­lar power fa­cil­ity in its com­pound. So­lar power is now be­com­ing an in­ex­pen­sive, low-car­bon tech­nol­ogy for

Agriculture - - Contents - BY JULIO P. YAP, JR.

The fa­cil­ity, which con­sists of 12 so­lar pan­els, a so­lar power in­verter, a so­lar charge con­troller, a recharge­able bat­tery, and a sub­mersible pump, now pro­vides the wa­ter sup­ply needed to ir­ri­gate the ur­ban farm’s or­ganic rice fields and veg­etable plots. At the same time, the so­lar pump­ing sys­tem pro­vides the wa­ter re­quire­ments of the com­pound’s swim­ming pool, lodg­ing houses, and other mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties.

May’s Or­ganic Gar­den and Restau­rant, which is owned by the en­er­getic hus­band-and-wife team of Ra­mon and May Uy, is com­pa­ra­ble to the leisure farms in Tai­wan where vis­i­tors have the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy tasty or­ganic food, fun-filled ac­tiv­i­ties, and hands-on lessons in or­ganic farm­ing.

The Uys also own the RU Foundry and Ma­chine Shop Cor­po­ra­tion in Ba­colod City, which man­u­fac­tures a ver­sa­tile and eco­nom­i­cal-to-use shred­der and other farm­ing ma­chines and equip­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Aladino “Nonoy” Mo­raca of the RU Foundry and Ma­chine Shop Cor­po­ra­tion, the so­lar power and pump­ing fa­cil­ity in the com­pound is ca­pa­ble of ir­ri­gat­ing up to five hectares of farm­land in nor­mal con­di­tions. Dur­ing times of drought, it has the ca­pac­ity to fully ir­ri­gate a twohectare farm­land.

The so­lar pump­ing sys­tem also pro­vides the wa­ter re­quire­ments of sev­eral fish ponds in the com­pound where fish like tilapia are or­gan­i­cally cul­ti­vated.

Mo­raca ex­plained that so­lar power is ba­si­cally the con­ver­sion of sun­light into elec­tric­ity us­ing pho­to­voltaic (PV) cells which con­vert the sun­light into an elec­tric cur­rent us­ing the pho­to­voltaic ef­fect. This creates elec­tric cur­rent when ma­te­rial is ex­posed to light, and is the prod­uct of phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal re­ac­tions. The pho­to­voltaic sys­tem uses no fuel, and the mod­ules can typ­i­cally last 25 to 50 years.

The en­ergy pay­back time or EPBT of a so­lar power gen­er­at­ing sys­tem (like the one in­stalled at May’s Or­ganic Gar­den and Restau­rant) is the time re­quired to gen­er­ate as much en­ergy as is con­sumed dur­ing pro­duc­tion and life­time op­er­a­tion of the sys­tem. Due to im­prov­ing pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies of the so­lar

power sys­tem, the pay­back time has been de­creas­ing con­stantly since the in­tro­duc­tion of PV sys­tems in the en­ergy mar­ket. At present, the so­lar power fa­cil­ity at May’s Or­ganic Gar­den, which Mo­raca de­scribed as a com­mu­nity-based wa­ter sys­tem pro­ject, can ex­tract wa­ter at the rate of 45 cu­bic me­ters per day.

Mo­raca, who is also the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Eco­log­i­cal and Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion, Inc. (EcoA­gri), said that in the long run, the op­er­a­tion of a so­lar pump­ing fa­cil­ity could be very eco­nom­i­cal and very prac­ti­cal, and will be very ben­e­fi­cial for main­tain­ing a farm­land. Aside from har­ness­ing the power of the sun, May’s Or­ganic Gar­den and Restau­rant also har­nesses the power of wind as it has in­stalled sev­eral wind­mills to help ex­tract ground­wa­ter to ir­ri­gate its green­houses and other or­ganic veg­etable gar­dens where dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of let­tuce and herbs are­grown.

Mo­raca said the uti­liza­tion of the so­lar pump­ing sys­tem in com­mu­nity farms could en­hance in­di­vid­ual and vil­lage-level ac­tions in the pro­mo­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of or­ganic farm­ing to at­tain food and en­vi­ron­men­tal se­cu­rity. He added that in­no­va­tions like th­ese two sys­tems can cre­ate lo­cal op­por­tu­ni­ties and vi­able en­ter­prises for self-re­liant com­mu­ni­ties.

Aladino ‘Nonoy’ Mo­raca opens the valve of the so­lar pump­ing sys­tem to show the vol­ume of wa­ter which is be­ing ex­tracted by the sub­mersible pump at the May’s Or­ganic Gar­den and Restau­rant com­pound in Ba­colod City.

Photo shows the con­trol panel which houses the so­lar power in­verter and so­lar charge con­troller of the fa­cil­ity.

Th­ese are some of the ameni­ties which May’s Or­ganic Gar­den and Restau­rant of­fers vis­i­tors.

The or­ganic plants in­side the green­house and or­ganic veg­etable gar­den, which is also ir­ri­gated by the so­lar fa­cil­ity in­side the com­pound, ben­e­fit from so­lar pump­ing sys­tem.

This is the or­ganic rice­field at the com­pound which is ir­ri­gated by the so­lar pump­ing sys­tem.

Ra­mon and May Uy, own­ers of May’s Or­ganic Gar­den and Restau­rant and the RU Foundry and Ma­chine Shop Cor­po­ra­tion in Ba­colod City.

Photo shows the fish­pond which is part of the vast gar­den and restau­rant.

Aside from the so­lar pump­ing sys­tem, sev­eral wind­mills are also in­stalled in­side the com­pound to ex­tract ground­wa­ter to ir­ri­gate the plants.

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