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Irrigation efficiency, Replacement incentives available

Now in its second year, a program offered by Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) is designed to help fund projects that will increase energy efficiency in irrigation systems.
This year marks the second of RMP’s cash incentives for upgrading pumps, water distribution or motors in a farming operation. According to RMP, the Energy FinAnswer program provides financial incentives to help irrigators upgrade to the most energy-efficient systems available.
In addition to the incentives, RMP also offers engineering services to assess where improvements would most increase energy efficiency.
“It’s cheaper for RMP to pay to increase energy efficiency than to pay for new generation or buy it off the open market if they don’t have enough,” says RMP’s Energy Efficiency Coordinator Rick Rumsey, a senior project engineer with the engineering consulting firm Nexant.
“The reason the power company offers rebates to replace equipment is because energy savings can be realized,” he adds. “Worn out nozzles cost more money to pump water, and leaks in a system result in pumping more water than is needed.”
While RMP’s biggest service area for irrigation customers is in the area between Thermopolis and Powell, they also serve irrigators in the Cokeville and Casper areas.
“The program is set up so the equipment needs to be purchased and installed before a customer gets the rebate,” says Rumsey. For the 2010 program, that means the equipment must be installed in 2010, with applications sent in by the end of January 2011.
A toll-free number is available for customers to discuss their system with RMP before they start a project. After initial contact, Rumsey says someone with RMP will visit their operation and look at their system to conduct an energy audit and evaluate where they could make the best improvements. However, he says a customer should have a project in mind when he first calls.
Rumsey notes that the program is for replacement on existing systems only. “It’s not for brand new pivots, but for an old pivot that’s worn out that may need a replacement sprinkler package,” he says.
According to Rumsey, the incentive offered for nozzles, gaskets and drains on handlines and wheel lines will pay most of the replacement costs. “Sometimes it will pay more than the cost, covering some of the installation as well,” he says. “It’s an instantaneous payback, with energy savings and very little cost up front.”
For wheel lines and handlines, Rumsey says RMP will pay 68 cents per nozzle, covering the cost of the nozzle and installation. For replacement gaskets on hand lines the program will pay $1.50 per gasket. “For most three- to four-inch handlines, that will cover the cost,” he says, adding that RMP will pay $7.50 per drain on wheel lines, which will cover most of the replacement cost.
For pivot packages Rumsey says the program will pay around one-third of the cost of replacing sprinkler heads and pressure regulators. “Expect payback on those to be three to four years,” he notes.
For sprinkler pressure regulators, the program will pay six dollars per regulator with the same pressure or less than the old one. For low-pressure pivot drains, Rumsey says RMP will pay four dollars per drain. “They’re often cheaper than that, but that would cover the labor involved,” he says.
To replace an entire sprinkler package, RMP will contribute $900 per package. “There’s a requirement that the existing sprinkler package with a design flow greater than or equal to eight-and-a-half gallons per minute per acre must be replaced with seven-and-a-half gallons per minute per acre,” says Rumsey, noting that the $900 doesn’t cover the entire cost of the new package, but he points out the energy savings that can be realized.
“Sprinkler heads, nozzles and regulators have a five- to seven-year life, and we’re replacing some in Idaho that have been in use 15 years,” says Rumsey. “In addition to the benefit of energy savings, the new parts provide a lot more uniform irrigation application, and an increase in crop yield.”
Regarding dual sprinkler packages, Rumsey says some pivots have dual nozzles to switch from a low flow rate to a higher flow rate. He says the incentive will pay for retrofits, but not a complete switch to dual nozzles.
Also, for the sprinkler package replacements, he says all sprinklers must be replaced, not just a few. The program requires a minimum of 80 sprinkler heads and a maximum of 170.
“If an irrigator has less than 80 sprinkler heads, he can get six dollars per regulator,” says Rumsey.
RMP will also help offset the cost of installing a premium efficiency motor, where energy savings can also be realized throughout the life of the motor.
“It’s a pretty simple, straightforward program,” says Rumsey. “With the post-purchase program, they purchase and install the equipment, then send us an application and the copy of the invoice and receive a check in the mail.”
If a producer is considering a project not on RMP’s list, Rumsey says the Energy Financer Program is available. “Contact RMP, complete a letter of intent and they’ll contact you and come do a custom energy analysis on how much energy savings could come from the project,” says Rumsey, adding the incentive would be based on the energy savings. “We’ll take a look at any project that will save energy.”
For utilities that don’t currently offer incentives, Rumsey says they can contact Nexant to discuss beginning their own program. “Local co-ops could contact me and I’d be happy to talk to them about their needs and give them an estimated cost to put a program in place,” he says. “We’d also estimate the benefits to the utility of having this type of program.”
For more information on Rocky Mountain Power’s irrigation incentives, visit or call Rick Rumsey at 208-221-5138. Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..