Reducing farming costs with solar powered irrigation

Preserving California’s water supply and cutting energy costs are critical components of agricultural profits. Installing solar for San Luis Obispo County and statewide agricultural operations is a growing strategy for efficient agricultural operations, including irrigation.

California produces over a third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts grown in the United States. California leads the nation in cash farm receipts, earning close to $50 billion in 2018 for more than 400 agricultural commodities, including crops, flowers, dairy and cattle. San Luis Obispo County contributes more than $1 billion to California’s agricultural income.

Water pumping accounts for approximately 70-percent of the agricultural energy use in California, and that use, and associated costs, increase during drought years. Electricraft, Inc. is ready to help farmers and ranchers reduce operating costs by installing solar. The San Luis Obispo company installs solar panels that provide power for a variety of agriculture solar needs, including irrigation.

The 2019 report, “Irrigation and Water Use” from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service reports that California leads the nation with .7 million irrigated acres. Interestingly, the total farm water usage, both nationwide and for California, has been relatively stable between 1984 and 2013, according to the USDA study. What changed was the increase in the cost of energy to run agricultural operations, including irrigating crops, and a move towards more efficient irrigation methods that save both water and energy.

Solar powered irrigation can increase incomes dramatically by reducing the cost of the power to pump and distribute water to crops and by opening up farmable acreage that does not have access to traditional power sources.

Solar irrigation uses the sun’s energy to power the pumps that deliver water to crops. Pole mounted solar panels collect the sun’s energy and provide the power for operating water pumps just as they do to provide energy to power a home or business. The number of solar panels needed for a solar irrigation system depends on how much water is to be delivered to the crops and the power needed for the water pumps to do the job.

California leads the nation in solar energy and in supporting the state’s agricultural industry. In 2014 California implemented the California State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) to provide financial assistance to help farmers switch to solar and other renewable energy. To date, SWEEP has awarded more than $72.2 million with more than $47.7 million contributed in matching funds. Eligible projects include installing switching to drip and low-pressure irrigation systems and pump retrofits.

A spokesperson from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) said that SWEEP for 2020 is awaiting budget approval. Those interested in learning more about the program can visit the CDFA Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation website.

Call Electricraft, Inc. for more information about installing solar panels for your farm or ranch.