Submitted to: Windpower
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 11, 2000
Publication Date: August 20, 2001
Citation: Vick, B.D., Neal, B., Clark, R.N. 2001. Wind Powered Irrigation for Selected Crops in the Texas Panhandle and Southplains. Windpower 2001, Washington, D.C. 2001. CDROM. Interpretive Summary: Due to increases in the natural gas prices last year, many farmers in the Texas Panhandle who used natural gas for their irrigation pumping engines have gone back to dryland farming this year and the accompanying lower yield (80% less). Some farmers wanted to know if wind energy could help them begin irrigating again. For farmers in the Texas Panhandle who are already using electricity for irrigation, wind turbines could be installed to help offset the irrigation cost if the maximum size of the wind turbine (50 kW) under the current Texas net billing law could be increased to at least 300 kW and preferably higher. It was also found that the amount of irrigation water needed for crops planted in the fall (like winter wheat) matched the wind resource very well (e.g. the highest irrigation water requirement occurs in the spring which is also when the highest winds occur). This is in contrast to crops like corn, cotton, sorghum and peanuts whose highest water requirement was in the summer when the lowest winds occurred. If the electricity generated by the wind turbine matched the electricity required for irrigation, the payback on the wind turbine could be reached in under 10 years at the current retail price of electricity. Because of the trend of lower commodity prices in recent years, the margins for a farmer buying a new or used wind turbine for irrigation are very tight. Due to the lower wind speeds in the lower South Plains of Texas, the use of wind energy for irrigation is not economic at the current commodity prices. The average size wind turbine needed for irrigation in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains is only available in the used wind turbine market, not in wind turbines being manufactured today.
Technical Abstract: This paper examines the economics of farmers using wind energy to irrigate various crops in the Panhandle and South Plains of Texas. In this paper two cases were analyzed. The first case involved installing a new wind turbine, and the second case considered the installation of a used wind turbine from California. Both wind turbines would be connected to the irrigation motor and to the utility. When there is not enough wind to pum the water, utility electricity can be used. In order for wind energy to be economic for most farmers in the Texas Plains, the current net billing cap of 50 kW needs to be increased to at least 300 kW and preferably higher. The wind system becomes more economic if the farmer uses most of the wind generated electricity and only sells a small percentage back to the utility. Growing crops like winter wheat that match the wind resource can do this most effectively. We estimated that a farmer would reach payback in less than 10 years if he bought a wind turbine that matched the irrigation power requirements, and he also grew a crop like winter wheat. Since winter wheat needs no water during the summer, the utility may be willing to pay the farmer more money for wind generated electricity during the summer since this will reduce their peak generation. Using the wind energy for other agricultural activities like cotton ginning and grain drying which are performed during non summer months (low wind energy months) will also improve the economics of buying a wind turbine.