Ernesto Montenero  |  Sustainable Technologies  |  Alameda, CA

Subject: Direct Solar provide 20years of free pumping at Full Belly farm

Capay Valley, CA – Agriculture has always been part of California since the beginning, but with an impending drought, the sustainable utilization of our natural resources has been brought to the forefront. Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley is committed to organic and sustainable farming practices since 1985. Their latest commitment is an innovative renewable energy project: an off-grid solar pumping system by Sustainable Technologies. This direct solar system pump operates independently throughout the day. No power drop required and no electricity bill. The Varisun pumping controller can run any 3 phase pump.

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. “It’s a free twenty years of water pumping,” said Ernesto Montenero, owner of Sustainable Technologies and designer of the system.

The standard option for off-grid pumping is to use a generator. The investment in a generator of that size is significant and is more than owning a car. Running a generator, or any motor, requires maintenance, service, and fuel. Fuel alone costs $10,000 a year. In electricity, running a pump that size would cost $12-20,000 a year. With the lower cost and 20 years of free water pumping, the solar option is the best, a clean and quiet alternative to noisy, dirty generators.

The 25 HP pump irrigates a 12.5-acre orchard with over 1,800 trees; almonds, persimmons, and pomegranates. The inline water filter uses centrifugal rotational patterns inside a high-velocity tube to optimize the cleaning efficiency. The debris gets directed to a catch basin with a flush valve. The water is filtered into four zones with electronic irrigation valves. The Toro Evolution AG Controller has programmable schedules and optional weather sensors. The valves and pump speed interlock and operate simultaneously. The Irrigation Controller turns the Solar pump and valves according to the irrigation schedule

The 27kW PV System is comprised of ninety 295 watt America 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.

The VariSun Solar Pumping System 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” Amon Muller

About Sustainable Technologies
Sustainable Technologies, founded in 1999, is a small minority-owned environmental Engineering and construction company in Northern California specializing in Solar Pumping System, groundwater treatment, remediation, renewable energy, and electrical service. For the past several years they have focused their expertise on helping the agricultural community pump water efficiently and achieve energy independence, in line with their goals for a sustainable future.

About Full Belly Farm
Full Belly Farm is a 400-acre certified organic farm in Capay Valley that is currently growing and marketing over 80 different crops, feeding families within a 120-mile radius of the farm and planting habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife. One of the farm’s goals is to integrate farm production with longer-term environmental stewardship.

In Topics Water & Irrigation

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Comments 5
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  |  Yolo Press  |  Winters, CA commented

Just to clarify the options: Photovoltaic panels produce direct current (DC) electricity. The Full Belly installation uses an inverter/transformer plus controls (plus phase converter?) to convert this to AC (alternating current) to power the pump (the pump runs on AC). My system uses a pump that runs on direct current (DC) power, so there is no inverter/transformer, no phase converter, no controls. It is a much simpler system for off-grid pumping.

06/12/18 8:21 AM
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  |  SMIP Ranch Produce  |  Woodside, CA commented

I am also curious about the cost of the system. We are looking at installing something similar to power a 7.5HP pump. Currently the plan is to run a PGE line from a nearby pole, but that alone is $7000.

06/12/18 6:06 AM
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  |  Yolo Press  |  Winters, CA commented

I have a much smaller off-grid solar pumping system. It uses 5 PV panels (1400 watts total) to power a Grundfos direct current pump (SQF). It pumps 20-25 gallons per minute from 80 feet depth at mid-day. I rigged it up and installed it myself. Total cost(2015),without taking any public monies,was $3900.

06/12/18 5:49 AM
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  |  verdi land  |  pacifca, CA commented

Ernesto; Can you please give us an idea of the cost of your system relative to your acreage size. Thanks- jerry v

06/12/18 12:59 AM
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  |  Classic Organic Farm  |  Gaviota, CA commented

I’m envious!

06/11/18 11:56 PM

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