New program provides solar irrigation
by CHRIS NORWOOD
Aug 24, 2010 | 3100 views |  1 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Craig McManus and Euneika Rogers-Sipp of Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families were two of the people across numerous agencies that helped make solar power for Sandra Simone’s farm in Alpine a reality.
Craig McManus and Euneika Rogers-Sipp of Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families were two of the people across numerous agencies that helped make solar power for Sandra Simone’s farm in Alpine a reality.
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TALLADEGA COUNTY — For Sandra Simone, owner of Huckleberry Hill Farm in Alpine, Tuesday was the culmination of great deal of hard work by her and many other people across a broad range of private, local, state and federal agencies.

Specifically, Simone is the first beneficiary in Alabama (there will be four more shortly) of a Sustainable Rural Regenerative Enterprises for Families (SURREF) program providing a solar-powered, energy efficient irrigation system.

“It was a dream come true,” Simone said in a press release. “I have been here for 12 years and since the inception I wanted solar on the well. (I) couldn’t find anyone locally that (wasn’t) too expensive. I have goats over there. It means there is a great water source to keep them getting water. And I had a youth program this summer, kids growing watermelons, and now kids have water for the watermelons, too.”

Most of the agencies involved in the project were represented at the demonstration Tuesday morning. These included of the Alabama Sustainable Agricultural Network, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the US Department of Agriculture and others.

Simone initially contacted Alabama Power about solar power, and was initially told it would cost about $4,000. By two years ago, the upfront cost was up to about $9,000.

ASAN had been working on getting Simone a solar pump for a year. “I wanted to keep the land as natural as possible,” Simone said. “Then my angel Eunieka (Rogers-Sipp, of SUREFF) contacted me from Tuskegee. I remember, I had made a list, and I had been able to mark off everything accept solar power. I was going to throw it out and start over, then I decided to wait a little while.”

In the meantime, everything was coming together. Rogers-Sipp, Eddie May of the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development and Steve Musser of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program all met in Tuskegee and agreed that they had a perfect project going forward.

Rogers-Sipp said Simone met the eligibility requirements, she had a commitment to sustainable practices, she had a commitment to maintaining them, and she was able to make a small contribution.”

The device itself is fairly simple. The 250 watt, 48 volt solar array operates a pump 97 feet down a 100 foot deep well. It pumps most days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there is a backup generator for hurricane season, when there might be several days without sunshine. The water is pumped uphill to two 1,500 gallon storage tanks. Then gravity takes over, and most of the water runs through a three inch pipe that irrigates the fields. The remainder runs through a one-inch pipe and provides drinking water for the goats.

The project was designed and installed by Craig McManus of Asolarpo.

Simone is also one of only a few organically certified, community supported agriculturist, according to a press release.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com