Farmers in Chitwan Grow More With Solar

Farmers can dramatically increase output when they have irrigation. But without electricity, they are unable to pump sufficient quantities of water.

Last quarter, SunFarmer constructed 7 agriculture projects in Chitwan, Nepal in partnership with Winrock International and Silver Spring Networks.

Solar water pumps are cheaper than diesel pumps and less labor-intensive than hand pumps. SunFarmer has solar-powered water services for:

  • Livestock: Cows and Pigs
  • Fish: 3 Ponds
  • Vegetable Crops: Corn, Rice, Potatoes, Gourds, Cabbage

The Andrew J. Wild Institute Goes Solar

The Andrew J. Wild Institute is one of the oldest A-Level colleges in Nepal. They offer the rigorous Cambridge International Examinations to prepare students for higher education.

THE PROBLEM: CONSTANT LOAD SHEDDING

AJW wanted to expand to offer Bachelors and Masters degrees, but with constant load shedding, it didn't make sense to invest in the computer labs and other equipment they would need.

SOLAR IS THE SOLUTION

SunFarmer helped AJW go solar. With an 18kW solar energy system, they can now power all the equipment they need to expand, without fear of load shedding.

SUNFARMER TECHNOLOGY

We built this system with specialized electronics, designed to improve energy production by coordinating solar with other energy sources, and reducing transmission losses.

Best of all, the Institute has by-passed diesel generators and the reliance on dirty and expensive fuel. The next time a fuel shortage strikes, AJW students will continue studying right through it.

Government Subsidy for Solar in Nepal

The Government of Nepal recently announced a new policy for subsidizing renewable energy for commercial and residential customers. This new policy is aimed at incentivizing accountability and long-term performance, ensuring that renewable energy systems are reliable investments in Nepal.

Under the new program, the government is subsidizing interest rates on bank loans made through seven local banks. There are two types of subsidies:

·       Commercial projects (greater than 1.5 kW) = subsidy interest rates of 4.5%

·       Residential projects (smaller than 1.5 kW) = subsidy interest rates of 2.5%

Under this program, customers pay for solar in affordable installations over several years, without accruing high interest burdens during the payment period. With the upfront cost of solar broken into affordable payments, solar payments are now on par or less expensive than a business would spend on diesel fuel.

SunFarmer Nepal welcomes this step from the Government. Our company pioneered the Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) for solar in Nepal, which enabled customers to pay for in quarterly installments. Ongoing payments hold installers accountable for energy generation - we ensure performance with dedicated maintenance support.

Contact sales@sunfarmer.org to learn how this new subsidy policy can benefit you.

Reflections From Post-Earthquake Nepal

It was two weeks after the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal when we finally, cautiously, starting moving back into our homes. After spending rainy nights in tents and cars, we were ready to be back in our beds. Nepal suffered tremendous losses, and there would be years of recovery to come. But for now, aftershocks were minor, rubble was cleared away, and media outlets and geologists verified that it was safe to move back into our homes. The worst seemed to be over.

Not everyone was lucky enough to resume their lives so quickly. Some houses were unlivable after the earthquake. Rural districts near the epicentre of the quake experienced the worst of it. Older buildings without concrete foundations were more vulnerable to earthquake damage. Villages in Gorkha and Sindhuli were nearly entirely flattened by the earthquake. Once our team was back in the office in Kathmandu, we refocused our efforts on how to provide relief to people who lost everything.

On May 12th our team was in the office when we heard the glass window of the office rattle and ground beneath us tremble. At first we thought it was just another minor aftershock that would pass in a couple of seconds, but what started out as a slow rumble was now getting larger in amplitude and didn’t seem to stop.

We rushed outside and headed to an open space nearby. We held on to each other till we found our balance. When we looked around we saw the metal structure of the indoor soccer ground behind our office swinging from left to right like it was balancing on jelly. A terrified woman began crying beside us and one of us held her in our arms to comfort her. There were people all around us, elderly men and women, and children--even two dogs had found their way to safety.

A few minutes later, the ground stopped shaking. We ran into the office to grab our phones, and found the cell phone network was jammed with people trying to connect with their loved ones. When we were able to reach our families and make sure they were alright, we returned home.

Thankfully, the second earthquake wasn’t as deadly as the last because so many people were still on high alert from the continuing tremors. But buildings that were weakened by the first earthquake were flattened by the second one. A health clinic in Kathmandu had been evacuated due to structural damage after the April 25th earthquake and the second earthquake left it in ruins.

Another disaster hit us just as we were starting to believe that it was safe. The second earthquake has left us with psychological damage. Riding around Kathmandu, we still see people camped in tents in nearly every open space, and it’s hard to imagine they will find more permanent shelters any time soon.

These earthquakes have left thousands of people without a place to call home. Some areas in Nepal are no longer accessible by road and have lost access to all their basic needs including food and shelter.  These people have now lost their source of income and are entirely dependant upon food donations.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working round the clock to distribute solar lanterns, charging stations, and water purification systems to communities in need. But we know that the road to reconstruction will be a long one, and we must allocate resources wisely in order to maximize our long term impact. For example, we want to make sure that community solar systems end up in schools and health clinics where they can continue to benefit entire communities. We are working closely with our partners to ensure that we can keep track of the systems once they have been distributed.

But the second earthquake has left people with psychological scars which will take longer to heal. During relief work with our partners, our team has seen strength and resilience from the people of Nepal. We believe that Nepal has a long journey to recovery but with the outpouring help that the country is receiving, we will rebuild stronger than before.

Powering Agriculture With Solar

SunFarmer recently completed a 750 W solar water pumping system for 3 female farmers in Chitwan, Nepal. With irrigation for their vegetable crops and fish farms, the families expect to increase their income 100% in 3 years.

THE PROBLEM: NO POWER FOR IRRIGATION

Most farmers do not have electricity. As a result, they are unable to power water pumps to irrigate corps, particularly high value vegetables, for the 8 to 9 months of the year when there is no rain.

DIESEL FUEL POWERS IRRIGATION, BUT IT IS DIRTY AND EXPENSIVE

Some farmers use diesel generators to power water pumps. But diesel fuel is expensive and fuel deliveries are unreliable in rural areas. Solar is cheaper in the long run, but the upfront cost is often too high. 

SOLAR WATER PUMPS ARE CLEAN AND COST EFFECTIVE.

SunFarmer's irrigation model allows farmers to pay for solar energy in affordable monthly installments. Solar doesn't require outside fuel sources and farmer can up to double their income.