Sustainable Solar Irrigation System
The sustainable irrigation system counteracts drought, saves money, and increases production by using a solar powered pump. This pump raises pond water to an above-ground cistern, pond water joins rain water collected from the barn roof, and this water irrigates vegetables through use of a drip tape, increasing vegetable quality.
2006 ANNUAL REPORT
We began our work on our project in May 2005 with the purchase of our 1500-gallon above ground plastive cistern tank. The cistern tank was picked up with a one-ton flat bed truck from our local Orscheln Store and was easily placed in its position adjacent to the farm barn by two workers.
We next reviewed by phone our supplies and equipment list with our solar installer, Henry Reinz of Missouri Vally Renewable Energy, LLC in Hermann, Missouri and set a date of June 16, 2005 for installation of the solar modules, solar pump, switch box, solar control unit and irrigation line from pond to cistern tank.
On June 16, 2005 a pipe trencher was rented and construction was begun on trenching a 12-inch deep line from the farm pond to the cistern tank 110 linear feet up the hillside. At the same time the installers were erecting the pole mounts for the solar panels and erecting the solar modules and making the initial electrical connections. As the trench was completed, a 1 1/2 inch pipe was then attached to the rigid pipe at the pond’s edge and extended out into the pond approximately 40 feet and the submersible solar pump attached to it and secured with a water float and land secured line to hold the pump in place.
Next a 40-inch PVC Schedule 40 pipe was laid in the same trench from the pond’s edge up to the barn. This pipe was then attached to the downspouts from the barn gutter system and will function to gather all rainwater from the barn roof and direct it back to the pond rather than permitting it to run off down the hillside and miss replenishing the pond.
Several weeks later a plumber was then available to assemble the connections between the cistern tank, the 1/2 HP jet pump, the 52 gallon pressure tank, the queen gil disc filter, the irrigation pump line and the existing underground irrigation main line. The electrical line and connection to the jet pump was performed with my labor. All trenched lines were covered with soil and later seeded by on-farm labor. The construction phase was fully completed by mid July and irrigation using the system began July 12, 2005. Drip irrigation to two tall tunnels was switched over from the county water system to the pond source at this time.
In early December 2006 we drained our cistern tank as well as the irrigation system and lines to the pond and pulled the solar pump from the pond to prevent freeze-up. The solar panels need no winterization except to turn off the control panel.
Our farm irrigation needs are now supplied 100% from our farm pond with our newly installed solar pump and cistern storage system. We use a very minimal amount of metered electricity to power the jet pump for adequate pressure to the lines. This past summer season we consumed approximately 120,000 gallons of water from mid July until mid November. Our cost of county water was $5.00/1,000 gallons so we were able to offset approximately $600.00 of costs for this season alone with our solar/pond system.
The efficiency of the solar pump is excellent and on most days of usage the solar panels and pump were only used for 1 to 2 hours. We are now investigating ideas on how we can utilize the power generated by the panels for other on-farm usage either directly or through storage in a battery system. We know there is a good potential for other uses of this solar generated power.
WORK PLAN FOR 2007
We intend to start our system this coming season sometime around mid-March which is when we begin irrigation in our tall tunnels. We will be monitoring our usage of water with the system throughout the entire season and then calculating our cost saving in December for this year.
A 30-minute PowerPoint presentation of the project was presented at the Farmers Forum held at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference on November 2, 2006 in Columbia Missouri. Approximately 30 people were in attendance. Kuebler will give an update on his project at the Farmers Forum in Columbia, MO on Nov. 1, 2007.
We are planning a field day at the farm in mid to late April 2007 to demonstrate the project. We will be assisted in advertising this event with the help of our county extension agent and the MU [University of Missouri]Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program. [The field day was held on May 6, 2007 and 40 to 50 people attended,including participants from Kansas City and St. Louis, MO.]
We will be appearing on a local community radio (KOPN) program in 2007 called Farm and Fiddle and discussing the project. My wife will be submitting an article to “Growing for Market” for publication regarding the project in 2007.