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BPA Encourages Farmers to Get Water Efficient

by Anna Willard
East Oregonian, July 16, 2011

Installing new equipment could bring down usage dramatically

Saving water and saving energy is the goal of the Bonneville Power Administration's agricultural energy efficiency program.

By putting some new programs to work, the BPA estimates it can save four megawatt hours each year, enough to power 3,000 Northwest homes.

The BPA has contracted with resource conservation and development councils throughout the Northwest working with local utility companies to help with conservation efforts in the agriculture sector, said Chas Koenig, Columbia Blue Mountain RC&D agricultural energy efficiency coordinator.

The project is set for the next five years in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Utah, Koenig said.

Locally, the Umatilla Electric Cooperative is working with the Columbia Blue Mountain RC&D to implement irrigation efficiency programs. The program already has participants in Morrow, Umatilla, Grant and Baker counties.

"We have projects in just about every corner of northeastern Oregon," Koenig said.

Columbia Blue Mountain RC&D is able to help producers receive the BPA incentives as well as their energy efficiency rebate from Umatilla Electric, Moore said.

Energy efficiency projects like this one allow utilities to meet energy demands without adding additional power generation resources, said Doug Johnson, BPA spokesperson.

The program focuses on projects such as replacing old, inefficient pumps and sprinkler hardware and installing the most effective tool in energy conservation, the variable frequency drive, Koenig said.

"A variable frequency drive is essentially a computer hooked up to the pump that electronically slows down the speed of the pump," Koenig said.

Pumps run on multiple applications -- i.e. a pivot one day and a wheel line the next -- and some applications require more water than others. With a VFD, a pump can be slowed down to only use the necessary amount of water instead of running at the same rate all the time, Koenig said.

The Umatilla Electric Cooperative has provided an energy efficiency and conservation program for a number of years.

"The thing that we find helpful with RC&D is that we work with a lot of smaller operators and growers," said Kathy Moore, Umatilla Electric Cooperative administrator for energy efficiency programs. "They may not have the advocate or resources to access BPA dollars."

The BPA also sees resource conservation and development councils as natural partners for this project because they are locally led by farmers, irrigators, businessmen and elected officials who understand local issues and dynamics, Johnson said.

Other electric companies working on this energy efficiency project in the area are Oregon Trail Electric, Columbia Basin Electric and Harney Electric, Koenig said.

"I meet with farmers and ranchers and help them identify some of these projects, then as a secondary I work with the utility to make sure they get the rebates they are eligible for," Koenig said.

For growers or producers that are interested in the program, contact the Columbia Blue Mountain RC & D in the U.S. Department of Agriculture service center, 200 S.E. Hailey Ave., Suite 111, in Pendleton.

Anna Willard
BPA Encourages Farmers to Get Water Efficient
East Oregonian, July 16, 2011

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