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Irrigation as if People Mattered: Energy Conservation Lessons from Montana. Mike Morris, Ph.D. Energy Program Project Leader National Center for Appropriate Technology. About NCAT. National non-profit organization, founded in 1976. Main offices: Butte, MT, Fayetteville, AR, Davis, CA

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irrigation as if people mattered energy conservation lessons from montana

Irrigation as if People Mattered: Energy Conservation Lessons from Montana

Mike Morris, Ph.D.

Energy Program Project Leader

National Center for Appropriate Technology

slide2

About NCAT

National non-profit organization, founded in 1976.

Main offices: Butte, MT, Fayetteville, AR, Davis, CA

Programs: Sustainable Agriculture, Energy, Communities

slide3

This talk will

  • Describe how Montana irrigators use energy.
  • Offer lessons learned from five approaches to energy conservation.
slide4

Main Conclusions

  • Irrigation efficiency is not just a technical problem, but has intrinsic human and social dimensions.
  • Irrigators welcome energy conservation but usually view it as a secondary consideration.
slide5

Montana Climate and Crops

  • 10-20” rain and 100-150 frost-free days in most areas.
  • Top five crops by cash receipts: wheat, barley, sugar beets, hay, potatoes.
  • Half of irrigated acreage is hay, ¾ of hay acreage is alfalfa.
slide6

Irrigation Methods

  • Only 5% of farmland (2 million acres) is irrigated.
  • Of irrigated acreage, only 1/3 is sprinkler-irrigated.
  • Half of sprinkler-irrigated acreage under pivots.
  • 93% of irrigated acreage irrigated by surface water.
  • 92% of irrigation pumps electric-powered.
slide7

Water Availability

  • Most irrigators pay nothing for water.
  • Chronic water shortages the rule, not the exception.
  • Water law limits opportunities for conservation.
  • Informal arrangements, peer pressure often more important than legal constraints.
slide8

Energy Costs

  • Electric rates low by national standards, but sharp increases in recent years.
  • Average $14.68 - $23.41 per pump-irrigated acre.
  • NorthWestern Energy 2003-4 irrigation rates: $8.03 per kW peak demand and $.043 per kWh.
slide9

2002 Crop Values per Acre

Potatoes $2,928 Sugar beets $856

Alfalfa hay $315 Corn $296

All hay $278 Barley $193

Wheat $190 Oats $151

slide10

Average Irrigation Energy Cost as a Percentage of Crop Value

Potatoes 0.7% Sugar beets 2.7%

Alfalfa hay 7.4% Corn 7.9%

All hay 8.4% Barley 12.1%

Wheat 12.3% Oats 15.5%

“It’s the crop, stupid.”

slide11

Labor Cost and Availability

Average pivot irrigation project cost $67,264, with energy savings of $1,271 per year.

slide13

NCAT Experience

  • Over 400 irrigation energy audits since 1988.
  • Currently offering no-cost energy audits to NorthWestern Energy irrigation customers.
  • Measure pressure, flow rate, electrical power output; calculate pumping plant efficiency.
  • Customer receives report with recommendations, payback, power bill analysis, incentive offers.
most common energy saving recommendations from audits
Most Common Energy-Saving Recommendations from Audits
  • Replace worn nozzles
  • Repair leaks
  • Correct motor overloading problems
  • Rebuild pump and/or motor
  • Replace pump and/or motor
  • Correct discharge problems
  • Correct suction problems
slide15

Lessons Learned

  • Audits are highly appreciated, sometimes desperately needed.
  • Labor intensive (average cost $672 per audit).
  • Only about half of participants completed recommended improvements within 1 year.
  • Equipment improvements do not necessarily lead to energy savings.
ncat experience
NCAT Experience
  • Administering cost-sharing program for NorthWestern Energy irrigation customers.

Most common customer project proposals in 2003:

  • Replace hand or wheel lines with pivots (15)
  • Replace high-pressure pivot w/low-pressure (8)
  • Use gravity to reduce horsepower requirements (3)
  • Replace oversized or inefficient pumps (2)
  • Install variable frequency drives (2)
slide18

Lessons Learned

  • Dollar for dollar, direct incentives save more energy than audits.
  • Evaluation criteria need to be carefully designed for consistency and fairness.
  • Working closely with local equipment dealers a key to success.
  • Gravity conversion is probably the biggest energy conservation opportunity remaining in Montana’s irrigation sector.
slide24

Lessons Learned

  • Pivot systems offer the best opportunities for conservation through improved management.
  • Poor management is common, but gross overwatering is less frequent than expected. Only 3-6 of 43 study fields clearly exceeded annual alfalfa water requirements.
  • Better water management should be promoted primarily in terms of crop yield and crop health.
slide25

4. Educational Publications

  • In 2003 NCAT revised and reprinted the Montana Irrigator’s Pocket Guide.
  • NCAT has contracted with NRCS to produce a national edition.
ncat experience27
NCAT Experience
  • Working with local groups in river valleys with chronic water shortages: Big Hole, Blackfoot , Boulder, Jefferson, Ruby, and Shields.
  • Goal is to help each group organize and run its own irrigation efficiency program.
slide29

Lessons Learned

  • Learning in rural communities takes place by imitation and word of mouth.
  • Groups vary widely.
  • Progress on irrigation management is most likely to come from locally-based projects that enable irrigators to experiment on their own and learn from each other.
slide30

For More Information

  • NCAT: www.ncat.org 1-800-ASK-NCAT
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service: www.attra.ncat.org 1-800-346-9140