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Solar pump systems up-front costs worth the trade-off for long-term benefits: farmers

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Duong Oeurn poses for a photo with his solar panels. SUPPLIED

Solar pump systems up-front costs worth the trade-off for long-term benefits: farmers

Agricultural expert Suong Noy has been advising farmers to use solar systems to pump water to their rice fields or plantations instead of using water pumping machines that run on fuel or manually. His advice came out of his own experience using the solar pump system on his own farm and saw the benefits of it firsthand.

With ten years’ of experience using the system, Noy said that one of the biggest benefits of using solar was that the equipment had a life of up to 20 years before it needed to be replaced and it has much lower operating costs over that 20 year span than any machine that runs on gasoline.

“Though the farmers have to spend a little more up front in the first stage, after installing the solar system they will profit by it for a long time,” he added.

Similarly, Duong Oeurn, who farms 20 ha in Kampong Chhnang province’s Teuk Phos district, said that he had just bought more land and chosen to grow fragrant coconuts when he began to use the solar pump system.

The reason he decided to invest significant sums of money into solar panels on his farm was because he viewed his younger brother's experience as a model, but unfortunately for his brother it was a model of what to avoid as Oeurn saw him run into money trouble time and again over fuel costs.

“I saw my brother spending money to buy gasoline every day, just a few months before the price of gasoline went up. Later, I studied other ways besides using gasoline and found that people were really successful with solar. And now, not only do I use it, but my brother is now also starting to install solar," he added.

He continued, recounting that he spent more than $9,000 installing solar panels on his farm and he had nothing to spend after that, but most importantly he was relieved that the amount of water being pumped was sufficient for the needs of growing and caring for his crops.

One factor that can help offset the costs is the fact that solar doesn't require people to watch it or refuel it like other pumping systems, so his farm gained a more productive workforce by freeing workers from that duty, according to Oeurn.

The fragrant coconut farmer has placed very high expectations on his crops this year after the installation of the solar panels, but he still advises other farmers to consider using solar despite the immediate cost in exchange for its long-term benefits.

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