Can Solar Help Save our Ponds on Martha’s Vineyard?

Can Solar Help Save our Ponds on Marthas Vineyard 1080x675 1

An April 4 article in the Martha’s Vineyard Times reported on a study from the Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) about the state of the Island’s coastal ponds. They’re not doing well. 

Rising nitrogen levels from septic systems has choked the pond’s natural life. 


As Martha’s Vineyard Commission member Doug Sederholm told the Times: “Twelve of our 15 coastal ponds are in trouble. If we do nothing, eventually they’re going to die.” 


Letting that happen would be a disaster for our way of life here. 


Fortunately, there’s a ray of hope in a solution being proposed by Edgartown resident John Smith of CES Clean Water. It’s an in-ground tank placed between the septic tank and the leach field that uses bacterial action to convert nitrogen compounds to harmless nitrogen gas that’s released into the atmosphere. (Nitrogen gas forms about 78% of the air we breathe.) The first such tanks are already being installed in the Town of Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard. 


What does this have to do with solar? The answer is that the conversion process requires air to be pumped into the new tank. And or course the small 40 W air pump needs electric power to enhance the bacterial action for the nitrogen conversion. 


To mitigate the expense of digging a trench and running power to the septic system, Smith asked Harvest Sun Solar to develop a reliable solar system that could run a pump placed close to the tank location. The opportunity to develop a small customized off grid system really appealed to our love of applied science, and we were eager to take part in something so important. 


We are in the process of designing a rugged and reliable proof-of-concept solar solution with more than enough energy output and battery storage for a typical residential septic system. Our first design came in at a higher price point than we wanted, so we are now re-configuring it with components that are more affordable yet just as durable. 


We’re honored to be part of this critical effort and will keep our blog readers updated as it progresses. 




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