Class of 2007 Alumni Head South—Update from Chile

by Micheal Hensen

"READY! SET! GROW! The baby pomegranate trees are budding here in sunny central Chile as Michael Henson, Monique Monteverde, Lawrence Silcox, Sean Spender (MSLS Alumni, 2007) and Patricia Lopez progress with a sustainable irrigation and farm consultation project. We have dubbed ourselves "The Aurora Project" for the valley in which the small farm is situated. We are designing a solar powered water pumping system, focused around the versatile technology of special solar water pumps. Each pump will be wired directly to a photovoltaic array, and the pumping rate will fluctuate according to insolation and Direct Current (DC) output, with the capability to run even on overcast days. In the super sunny Chilean Summer, when most watering will occur, this is a strategic solution to the watering needs of this expanding pomegranate farm.

Solar powered water pumping is a growing solution to meeting the water demands of people, plants, and livestock around the world, particularly in remote areas without grid access. With an adequate storage tank, a few photovoltaic panels, and a specially engineered solar water pump, systems have been designed that meet the watering needs of entire villages. As water scarcity becomes an issue in more and more places around the globe, the potential for this technology will also increase. It's exciting for us to be experimenting with and learning about the complex worlds of electricity and hydraulics, and trying to keep sustainability in mind throughout!

So, about that sustainability thing...we've had our share of challenges with this project: trying to stay focused on SSD while meeting the ever-changing objectives of our client, battling the pressures of time, and working with the challenges of another culture and language. Nevertheless, we are being intentional about our material choices, trying to educate and influence our client on the business case for sustainability, and discussing larger issues of cash crop farming and our ability to snag those "low hanging pomegranate fruit" and influence the larger system here. We even have a "funnel" hanging around - the one we use to collect drinking water from the spring that flows from the roots of a nearby tree. So it all comes back to water (and The Funnel!)...Cheers from Chile!

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October 2007


This page featured in the Fall 2007 issue of our newsletter. To download the full newsletter click here.

Alumni head south...

In September 2007, five graduates of the MSLS class of 2006/07 will begin a new journey in South America. Cari Bivona, Michael Henson, Sean Spender, Lawrence Silcox and Monique Monteverde (pictured left) have been contracted by a private landowner near Santiago, Chile to help him transition his 6.5 hectare pomegranate farm towards sustainability.

The primary objective is to retrofit the existing irrigation system to run on renewable energy. With the help of the strategic sustainable development framework the team plans to take a holistic approach to assessing all operations on the farm.

They also hope to expand the project into a capacity building and educational tool than can help identify barriers to making the transition to cleaner energy, and to provide opportunities to build partnerships with local educational institutions and NGO’s. They are currently in the preliminary research phase, contacting individuals and organizations and will spend three months on location.

To track their progress log onto their blog at

June 2007










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