Sunlight brings independence: watering organic bananas with the aid of solar energy

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In our Dominican ecological centre (Centro Ecologico Cibao), a new photovoltaic system has recently been set up. It supplies the energy for watering the plants growing there

This is especially true for the organic bananas on our 18-hectare plantation surrounding the ecological centre. They are provided with optimal water management. A garden hose is obviously not enough for them. The water needed is obtained from the local water canal and electrical energy is used to do the work of the pump. However, the public electricity supply in the country is not safe, as the energy infrastructure is out-of-date and badly managed. Constant disruptions are a regular occurrence.

A diesel motor pump had previously been used as a fall-back option in order to water the plants efficiently, as is the custom throughout the country. The new photovoltaic system has enabled the ecological centre and the plantation to stop depending on fossil fuels, and to rely entirely on solar power instead. The energy itself is free and accessible to all. It is a visible example of how a sustainable technology can be used in practice.

The $95,000 system is an investment for the present and for the future. It currently provides the following figures:
• Performance of 34 kilowatts per hour (kWh)
• The system generates around 150 kilowatts (kW) per day
• 58 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) are saved per day

"When we were choosing a pump, it was important to find a model which could supply the right pressure for the existing sprinkler for watering," says Volker Schmidt, Biotropic's agricultural engineer in the Dominican Republic. "Our sprinklers need about 1 bar to function. Only newer systems offer this level of performance. That was a major challenge during installation."

The traditional watering method in the Dominican Republic is the overflow method. This method involves water being piped over the surface of a field. However, the water consumption level is unnecessarily high and important nutrients are washed out. The Dominican Biotropic then installed water sprinklers which, crucially, work in a targeted manner. This means that, in turn, precious water is used in an economic and controlled manner.

This new solar system is one of many existing systems which bring together a variety of environmental aspects; a photovoltaic system, which supplies power to the office, the warehouse and the packing station, a water treatment system for processing wastewater, and a composting system.

Text: Visnja Malesic
Images: BioTropic GmbH
Version: September 2017


Tags: Bananas (GB), Dominican Republic (GB), Ecological Centre "Cibao" (GB), Volker Schmidt (GB)