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Farmer reaps benefits of solar

It is time to start farming the right way, Waioma farmer Ben Roberts says.

To do their bit to tackle climate change, Mr Roberts and his wife Anna have installed two solar-powered water pump systems on their 1500 hectare farm.

“Farmers often use diesel pumps, but solar ones are brilliant.”

There are numerous problems with diesel pumps including constant refuelling, changing the oil and replacing worn out parts.

“These additional costs can make it expensive,” Mr Roberts said.

Although the initial capital on solar pumps was expensive, the long-term benefits and returns outweighed the starting costs.

Unlike diesel pumps, the overall maintenance of solar pumps was lower especially in terms of longevity.

Solar panels absorb sunlight to power the pumps to produce and store water in tanks and troughs to spread across the farm.

The installations and water distribution set consisting of pipes, tanks and troughs were funded by the Wharekōpae River Restoration Project, Mr Roberts said.

With more than $300,000 invested for the initial costs, about 50 percent of the cost was borne by the fund.

Since the river runs through the farm where Mr Roberts practises livestock farming, the awa (river) had to be fenced off.

A part of the restoration project was to ensure farmers were facilitated with reticulated water systems such as the use of solar pumps and their widespread distribution system.

“The cattle don't go near the river as it is now fenced off, but more importantly our farm has a good distribution of troughs,” he said.

Solar pumps were more environmentally friendly than their diesel counterparts, which emitted a significant amount of carbon dioxide.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 discussed how crucial it was to have a cleaner source of energy to tackle climate change.

It was noted that every time the global deployment of solar power doubles, their costs have fallen by 28 percent — making it an attractive opportunity to adopt.

Mr Roberts is just one of a few high country farmers who have adopted the alternative source.

He hopes other farmers follow the same efficient and eco-friendly approach.

INNOVATIVE: Waioma farmer Ben Roberts has installed solar panels on his farm, which help pump about 30 to 50 thousand litres of water on a good day. Picture by Liam Clayton
Ben Roberts