Cutting a farm’s energy bill is a goal all farmers try to achieve. With SGMA regulations looming. How to cut energy by 50%. Cost-effective irrigation and groundwater recharging are now a major concern for many farmers. Keeping these costs controlled is always a challenge. The slightest variation in market prices and operational costs could drastically decrease profitability and sustainability. Bringing some framers and their family’s legacy to the edge of ruin. The latest factor to challenge our agricultural communities is climate change – unpredictable, drastic, and costly. How to cut energy by 50%.
As seasons get hotter and drier, and droughts become more frequent and longer. Farmers must use more groundwater and energy to sustain their crops. With climate change, we have seen the cost of energy increase, especially during peak hours. Ultimately, these factors raise operating costs and negatively affect a farm’s bottom line, threatening its viability. Rising energy costs are putting farms and their communities at grave risk.
How to cut a farm’s energy bill by 50%.
We cannot predict exactly when, or with what intensity these changes will occur, but we know they will. The challenge is not a prediction, but preparation. The solution is clear: reduce and control water and energy use and replenish our water supplies. Umida AG provides subsurface irrigation and groundwater recharging system. That protects crops from droughts and lowers water and energy costs by 50%.
Variable Energy Cost
When it comes to effective irrigation and groundwater recharging, there are many variables to consider. Let’s assume a few factors per orchard acre:
- 100% groundwater pumping (even if majority surface water is used)
- An electricity rate of .11¢/kW
- 4-acre feet of water needed per acre each year
- Total electricity power needed per acre, per year is 5,000 kWh
- Electricity cost per acre for the above calculation is $550
- A 1,000-acre farm would spend $550,000/a
Relying on groundwater can only go so far. Groundwater pumping has a big jump in cost associated with dropping water tables. As groundwater levels drop, so do well levels. Some wells will go dry, requiring an increase in depth, or dig new wells entirely. As water levels drop, and wells deepen. More energy is required to pump water to the surface and deliver it to drip systems. The costs to sustain this infrastructure will take a long time to recover and lower a farm’s profitability. How to cut energy by 50%.
The problem becomes worse for farms that rely on surface water during drought years. As they must switch their operation to rely on groundwater. This will require a complete shift in water delivery infrastructure, assuming the farmer can afford to do so. Relying on groundwater increases water and energy costs and can destroy a farm’s bottom line.
Climate Change Leads to Higher Energy Bills
Although droughts don’t last forever, there is growing evidence that climate change produces hotter, drier, and longer summers. California now experiences long stretches where the average daily temperature will reach between 115° and 120°. These extreme and soon to be common temperatures increase evapotranspiration, thereby increasing water usage to sustain the crop. With the typical 72hr saturation/starvation irrigation cycle the majority of farms use, water, and electricity costs could become unaffordable.
How to cut energy by 50%.
Under this scenario, a simple one-inch increase in evapotranspiration would cost an additional $11.45/acre in electricity charges. Apply that to our 1,000 acres, and we have an additional $11,458 disappearing from the bottom line.
Evaporation is another variable when using drip irrigation systems that increase water and energy use. When water evaporates from the soil, residual salts are left behind that increase surface tension. This means less water penetrates the soil and gets to the crop’s roots. There are many chemical solutions to help with this, but that is another added cost. When these salts and minerals are harmful to crops and must be leached away. Again, more energy and resources are used to maintain viability using a top irrigation system.
As conditions get hotter and drier, we rely more on booster pumps, filters, and emitters. The irrigation system must work overtime, increasing electricity use. Gradually taking larger and larger chunks out of the bottom line.
Umida’s Aquifer Pipe System
The only solution to decrease energy costs is to use less water and deliver it more efficiently. Umida’s Aquifer Pipe is a zero-pressure, gravity-flow subsurface irrigation infrastructure that distributes water just below the roots. The Aquifer Pipe is a v-shaped, six-inch diameter pipe that comes in 20-foot lengths. That can be connected up to one mile (25.6 linear acres). The pipe runs under service roads, preserving root structure during installation.
The system works on a pulsing irrigation cycle. The Aquifer Pipe connects to pumps and fills and distributes water along its channels in 15 minutes. The pumps then shut down for an hour to allow the water within the pipes to saturate the soil and create a moisture plum. So, after an hour, the cycle restarts with another 15 minutes of water delivery.
This cycle repeated five times during day-time hours in summer months, outside peak water, and electricity hours. This on/off cycle creates a sustainable, virtual water table that continuously services the roots throughout the day.
The Aquifer Pipe rests at a five-foot depth, thus creating a moisture plume below the surface. At this depth, no water lost to evaporation. Our system designed to encourage a crop’s roots to travel deeper into the soil, promoting greater nutrient absorption and protecting trees from falling due to high winds. The deeper roots also protected from the extreme heat on the surface and water loss due to evaporation.
Cut Energy Costs
The classic drip-irrigation system mimics rainfall. Considering the natural climate of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Which is basically a desert, this delivery system is wasteful and inefficient. A new delivery method will work with the region’s natural weather patterns needed. Umida’s irrigation and groundwater recharging system has a different energy footprint from traditional 72hr saturation/starvation drip irrigation.
The classic drip system utilizes water and electricity during peak hours. And then loses anywhere from 35-50% of this water to evaporation. Put simply, it wastes water and energy. In the end, Umida’s pulse system and water plume use less water to maintain the crop. All of these changes add up to a minimum 50% water reduction and a corresponding 50% reduction in electricity use. Our 1000-acre farm has just saved a minimum of $225,000 in the first year alone.
As climate change progresses and temperatures continue to rise, energy costs will also increase. Many farmers have already adopted solar energy to lower energy costs. Finally, the Umida system can run 100% on solar energy. Solar panels coupled with the Aquifer Pipe system could effectively lower a farm’s energy cost to zero. When we add that to the bottom line.