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.

By Julio P. Yap, Jr.

Solar power is now becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology for harnessing renewable energy from the sun. 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.

(Story continues after photo)

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 two-hectare 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.

(Story continues after photo)

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 are grown.

(Story continues after photo)

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.

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.

This appeared as “Harnessing the Power of the Sun” in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2016 issue.