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Savings from Smart Irrigation Wins Backing from BPA Image

Savings from Smart Irrigation Wins Backing from BPA

Simplot initiative and ingenuity, combined with a little help from a government agency, have resulted in the development of an impressive crop irrigation process at the Company’s farming operations around Pasco, Washington.

Simplot employees began upgrading the Pasco Farms irrigation systems several years ago by adding energy-saving variable frequency drives to pumping stations in the field. Radios were later installed on the drives, so the pumping station could receive instructions from computers in the farm office miles away. When officials of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) learned what Simplot was doing, they recognized the fulfillment of the agency’s own intention to enhance flexibility for power consumption during periods of peak demand.

Simplot employees developed software that would allow the system to automatically adjust the flow of water in the field. The electricity cost savings to the Company so far have been impressive.

The BPA-Simplot partnership seems to be a marriage made in high-voltage heaven. It allows BPA to move a step closer to its goal of reducing power consumption by farmers during times when usage in cities is highest, and Simplot gets an important upgrade to an irrigation system that enhances the Company’s ability to grow better crops.

The system allows employees at the Pasco facility to remotely program automatic water and liquid fertilizer distribution for the operation’s many pumping stations so that they’re running at times when residential demand is down, such as late at night. This results in lower rates for Simplot and helps BPA to spread demand across low- and high-usage periods. Plus, BPA has an opportunity to see how the aptly named “smart-grid system” works in practice without funding the entire project.

If power becomes more expensive as predicted, farmers may begin to implement smart grid in greater numbers. This seems likely not only because growers will be stretched financially by continuing traditional irrigation practices as rates increase, but they also might be interested in the kind of excellent results that Company employees have achieved at Pasco Farms.