News From the Farm | June 25, 2018

The new Full Belly ‘solar-powered’ 12.5 acre orchard of almonds, persimmons and pomegranates was mentioned in an earlier newsletter and we’re still just as excited about it as we were 6-months ago when we first turned it on.  This week, power and electricity are on our minds because we went without power for 10-hours on Sunday/Monday after a car hit an electric pole, and we are preparing for a “planned” power outage on Tuesday while PG&E does some maintenance work. The unplanned power outages happen fairly regularly.  Our power comes in one line up the Valley and when a car hits an electric pole, the entire Valley goes without power until it can be fixed. If the power poles were underground, the long-term maintenance savings would be significant. The “planned” power outages also happen fairly regularly, often during the hottest weather. All of the outages are very inconvenient because our water pumps are mostly electrical, so we have no water, no internet and no power to keep our vegetables cold. Full Belly has invested in several generators that are used for some of our remote pumps, but which we move into emergency service during power outages.  It is at times like these that we think about getting solar power that is not tied into the grid.  We first became interested in solar because of the environmental benefits and long-term cost savings, but more and more we wish that we could invest in systems like the one in our almond orchard.  Our friends at Sustainable Technologies, who designed and built the system, recently wrote the following description, providing additional details:  The project is an off-grid solar pumping system. This direct solar system pump operates independently throughout the day. No power drop required and no electricity bill.

The system sits on nearby grassland that the farm recently acquired, but it had no power within reach. The cost to install power near the well was unreasonable, and more expensive than the solar PV system itself. Irrigating the land would require power, so the farm chose to produce power where they needed it. The solar option eliminated the enormous utility infrastructure cost and eliminated a recurring energy bill.”

The 27kW PV System is comprised of ninety 295 watt American-made panels. The SolWay GM2 Ballasted PV ground mount system and concrete solar ballasts are ideal for rocky soil conditions. Sustainable Technologies helped to develop the custom ground-mounted system, which is an affordable option compared to other ground-mounted systems. Full Belly received a Grant from the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) for 25% of the cost. The Solar pumping systems also qualify for a 30% renewable energy tax credit and Air District grants. It’s important to take note that some of these federal incentive programs are at risk of disappearing, so now is the best time to invest in one. “Watching the pump change when the sky conditions change really shows how the solar energy is being generated and runs the pump,” said Full Belly Farm co-owner, Amon Muller.

Our packing shed and mechanics barn are loaded with solar panels!