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

Government Subsidies for Solar in Nepal

SunFarmer pioneered the Power Purchasing Agreement for solar in Nepal. Our customers pay for high-quality solar systems in quarterly installments and our engineers provide continued maintenance and support.

Now the pay-as-you-go model for solar is spreading. The Nepali government is working with 7 local banks to make solar affordable with low-interest loans. 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%

With the high-upfront cost of solar broken into affordable payments, solar technology is more accessible than ever.

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.

Looking Back: SunFarmer's 2015 Annual Report

We're proud to present our 2015 Annual Report.

Thanks to your continued support, we were able to lay the groundwork for new projects amidst a chaotic year. 

Photo credit: © Kristin Lau

Photo credit: © Kristin Lau

In April, two devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, our primary country of operation. We immediately shifted our focus to doing what we could to help. Crisis struck Nepal again in August − political conflicts on the border of Nepal and India led to a complete economic blockade. As a result, we were only able to complete one solar energy installation in the fourth quarter of 2015.

However, the installation was our first project with our solar-powered irrigation model, whereby farmers pay for solar-powered irrigation in affordable monthly installments. The installation was the result of months of research and design, and we believe it will be the blueprint for many future projects. 

SunFarmer continues to push innovation through our work – we completed designs for one of the largest solar energy projects in Nepal, a 100 kW at Bayalpata Hospital. We built prototypes of our remote monitoring technology and are currently testing it. In addition, we continue to find unique ways to make solar affordable for our customers through financing solutions.

Photo credit: © Kristin Lau

Photo credit: © Kristin Lau

We believe 2016 will be a very exciting year for SunFarmer – we are grateful for your support and look forward to sharing our accomplishments with you this year! 

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.

Photo credit: © Kristin Lau

Photo credit: © Kristin Lau

A Walk To Kirtipur

2 - green strides (1).JPG

I have been fortunate to meet a fantastic group of people here in Kathmandu.  Regular dinners, brunches, performances and adventures have kept my social life buzzing.  One particular adventure is notable as it was my first, and only trip outside of Kathmandu thus far.  After enjoying our panini sandwiches at Yellow House, a favorite brunch spot due to it’s central location, yet not so much for the service, we discussed plans for the afternoon.  I had little to contribute to the idea pool, and sat quietly until the plan was decided and I could say “Yep, I’m in for that” regardless of what it was.  The decision was made: we would take a walk to Kirtipur.  

The small village of Kirtipur sits on the South-West corner of Kathmandu, nestled up on a hill overlooking the far reaching capital city.  7 of us set out for our day with limited knowledge of what to expect, but confident that we would have a great day.  The trek started out like any other walk through Kathmandu.  Through constant horn honking and dog barking we carefully navigated down and across streets, alleyways and dirt paths to reach the Bagmati River.  Crossing the river and turning South we officially had left Kathmandu city limits.  After another 10 minutes of walking the shops and concrete structures began to thin until we were finally greeted by open green landscape.  

Our walk continued past fields of various Nepalese crops and straggling cows.  Odd looking tractors passed by, appearing more like lawn mowers attached to horse wagons.  As we began to approach the town we noticed an unexpected feature, a ferris wheel.  It was a surreal site, especially with the hillside town in the background and accompanying rudimentary festival rides.  We found ourselves asking “Are these rides functional?”  This question was never answered.

We reached the town of Kirtipur and began to scale the city, as talks of a “Lookout Restaurant” transitioned from idea to plan.  Although many shops and city features were identical to Kathmandu it was apparent that the lifestyle was more relaxed.  The streets seemed wider, with people in much less off a hurry.  We stopped at a temple which opened at the back of the property to an amazing view of the entire Kathmandu valley.  Continuing on past friendly people, odd looking birds and a curious amount of street dogs we climbed to our final destination.  The Viewpoint Restaurant did not disappoint.

With 360 degree views, a beautiful temple capping the peak, hot momo’s to eat, cold beverages to drink and great company, I was in heaven.  Our trek could not have ended more perfectly.  We took our fill of food, drink, scenery and stories as the sun set in the distance.  My walk to Kirtipur will not be forgotten.

Waking up in Kathmandu

As the city awoke my first morning in Kathmandu I was serenaded by the sounds of barking dogs, motorbikes and loud men on bikes assumingly trying to sell things.  Any negative feelings this caused were immediately washed away as I sat up and saw the city for the first time.

It was nearly sensory overload as I gazed upon the seemingly infinite buildings and trees, all uniquely colored and shaped.  I smiled, snapped a photo and whispered “this will do.”  Ivan and I cooked up eggs, oats and strong black coffee for breakfast.  He explained that we need to be very frugal with our natural gas use due to the fuel shortage.  Once our tank runs dry there would likely not be an option for refueling.  My eyebrows lifted as I said “Wow.  Ok then…” and we set off to the rooftop to enjoy our morning meal with a view.

We walked to the office, navigating what seemed to be the most complex maze of streets, alleys and dirt roads to reach the SunFarmer office.  Here, nestled on an unassuming road stood a beautiful home surrounded by gardens and greenery.  Inside I met my new workmates including Avishek, Marco, Kushal and Swikriti.  I set up my station in what will become my office for the next 7 weeks and got rolling.

Share the Gift of Solar

Sample gift card pdf

Sample gift card pdf

This holiday season, we decided to try something new . . .

With a SunFarmer gift card, you can make your last-minute holiday gifts matter--donate in honor of your best friend, co-worker, grandpa, or even yourself (hey, why not?).

There are 5 giving levels to choose from, so no matter what, your gift can have a huge impact on post-earthquake Nepal.

Brodie kicks off his SunFarmer fellowship in Kathmandu

My name is Brodie Yyelland.  I am a Solar Energy Project Manager, and Chair of the ELSE (Emerging Leaders for Solar Energy) Alberta chapter.  Up until recently my work has been based in Calgary, Alberta, but a couple months ago I was offered an opportunity that I could not pass up.  ELSE and SunFarmer teamed up to create a 2 month volunteer fellowship position in Nepal. The position entails traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal and assisting the SunFarmer team to develop “OffGridU,” an online platform intended to help share the knowledge and expertise needed for off-grid projects to be successful.  For the next 2 months I will be updating this blog with posts, pictures and videos about my experience.

Brodie packs up his life in Calgary and prepares to ship off to Kathmandu for two months.

Brodie packs up his life in Calgary and prepares to ship off to Kathmandu for two months.

After running a gauntlet of preparation I’ve made it to Kathmandu.  A wave of relief is rushing over me as a new set of adventures are just beginning.  A quick tally of what I’ve just been through includes:  Moving out of my apartment in Calgary and getting my possessions tucked away in storage, tying up and summarizing outstanding tasks at my work including about 8 ongoing solar projects and a mountain of inquiries, quotes and correspondences.  With a big help from my ELSE Alberta board we pulled off our first solar event at the U of C and finished the week with attending the last day of the Solar West conference.  There we were able to meet a bunch of the ELSE National board members and listened to Noel and Mike (Co-Chairs of ELSE) give a fantastic closing keynote speech which included some of the most inspiring and uplifting remarks I could have imagined about myself and our ELSE AB team.

Brodie and the ELSE Alberta team

Brodie and the ELSE Alberta team

Just 12 hours after those remarks I was waking up to begin my travels.  5 hour flight to Toronto, 13 hour flight to Abu Dhabi (which left me feeling very nostalgic being back in that part of the world again) and finally a 4 hour flight to Kathmandu.  As we descended through darkness the faint and flickering lights of the city appeared, like twinkling stars giving me my first glimpse of why I have come here.  It was a surreal introduction to intermittent/unreliable electricity, something that I have always taken for granted.

Flying over the Middle East en route to Nepal

Flying over the Middle East en route to Nepal

I secured my bags and after a quick taxi ride I was finally shaking the hand of Ivan, my SunFarmer associate and roommate for the next 7 weeks.  He will have lots to show me over the coming days but I already feel like I’m in good hands.

As I lie here and watch our apartment lights flicker and die, it’s still hard to believe where I am and what I’m about to do.  *Deep breath.  Here we go…