IREC, partners push solar training for allied professions

Free webinar
June 15, 2017
12:00-1:30 PM MT

Half-day Forum
San Francisco, California
July 1, 2017

As solar installations continue to grow exponentially, there is an increasing need for other professions to know more about solar technologies. Firefighters, local code officials and electrical and building inspectors need a thorough understanding about solar technologies if the solar sector is to continue growing in a safe and sustainable way.

To meet this need, the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative provided funding to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) to develop Solar Training and Education for Professionals You are leaving WAPA.gov. (STEP). Working with partners in related fields, IREC created a number of training resources for allied professionals whose jobs require some knowledge of solar technology.

IREC’s STEP partners are:

Training online
STEP is presenting Solar Updates in the 2017 National Electrical Code, You are leaving WAPA.gov. an interactive webinar June 15. This interactive webinar will cover new articles, such as large scale photovoltaic (PV) electric supply stations and energy storage systems, and changes to existing provisions like rapid shutdown and grounding of PV systems. Participants will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance, or during the webinar. The event is free and continuing education units (CEUs) are available.

Training in person
For solar professionals in California, an in-person workshop You are leaving WAPA.gov. has been scheduled in conjunction with Intersolar North America in San Francisco, July 12. The half-day training session is one in a series of national forums on solar codes and safety specifically for local building planners and inspectors, architects, builders, solar installers and others who will benefit, including fire officials.

National solar code and technical experts will discuss the most recent solar code updates and impact on those tasked with enforcement. The material will cover much of the same ground as the webinar but in more detail, with an eye on California. Other solar code enforcement considerations, including permitting and first responder safety, will be discussed. After attending this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify three or more solar code updates
  • Explain the impact of one or more solar code changes
  • Navigate to solar code resources, including best practices for permitting

The forum is also eligible for CEUs from the International Code Council, IAEI and North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

Training on demand
In addition to these upcoming training opportunities, STEP offers specific free online training courses for code officials PV Online Training for Code Officials You are leaving WAPA.gov. and firefighters Solar PV Safety for Firefighters Online Course.

For questions about the Solar Codes and Safety Forum contact IREC at 518-621-7379.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 5/22/17

Still time to register for free community solar workshop

June 7-8
Golden, Colorado

Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing, a free regional workshop for utilities, is filling up fast but there is still room for a few more attendees.

Community solar projects are a successful business model where multiple customers share in a large solar array, paid for through individual utility bills. It has seen such rapid growth across the country that it has become almost commonplace. Despite that fact, utilities are still learning about every aspect of this resource. It is important to get your project off on the right foot or correct missteps before they mushroom.

WAPA’s Renewable Resources Program has teamed up with the Community Solar Value Program You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) to make it affordable for power providers to share best practices in developing this type of generation. There is no registration fee for this event; attendees need only pay for their travel to Golden, Colorado. “Helping our preference utility customers learn about community solar and other renewable technologies, as well as tools and resources for smooth integration are a core part of WAPA’s Renewable Resource Program,” explained Randy Manion, WAPA Renewable Resources program manager.

The agenda You are leaving WAPA.gov. draws from an investigation conducted by CSVP into utilities’ best practices and innovations in community solar. From design to procurement to marketing, participants will hear from expert speakers and utility peers who will share their experiences. Presentations by WAPA customers include Kit Carson Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. on requests for proposals and Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. on integrating community solar with distributed systems.

WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center (EPTC) in Golden, Colorado, is hosting the event. The workshop will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, with a “lightning round” of community solar best-practice presentations and a tour of EPTC’s grid simulator, followed by a networking reception. On Thursday, June 8, the workshop will convene from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with breaks and a networking lunch provided by Extensible Energy LLC included.

Registration is free, but required. Participants only cover travel and hotel costs and incidentals.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore this promising strategy for incorporating solar power into your resource mix.

Source: Community Solar Value Project, 5/17/17

WAPA’s Renewable Resources Program co-sponsors workshop on tough solar-program challenges

June 7-8, 2017
Golden, Colorado

What is the toughest challenge for an electric cooperative or public power utility in planning for community solar? Many utilities say it is solar resource procurement; for others, the top challenge would be pricing that works for both the utility and the customer, and turning that into a program offer. The Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) and WAPA’s Renewable Resources Program have heard these frequently cited concerns, and they are responding with a new, one-and-a-half day workshop, Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing, on June 7-8 at the WAPA Electric Power Training Center in Golden, Colorado. Registration You are leaving WAPA.gov. is free and targeted at utilities in the West, whether they are in states like Colorado that have guiding community solar legislation or states in which community solar is an option that requires utility leadership and innovation.

Jill Cliburn explains how the Community Solar Value Project is working to improve the community-scale solar model.

Jill Cliburn explains how the Community Solar Value Project is working to improve the community-scale solar model. (Photo by Community Solar Value Project)

According to Jill Cliburn, program manager for CSVP, this event will be the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year investigation into utilities’ best practices and innovations in community solar. Community solar, or community shared solar, describes a range of programs that allow customers to share, usually by a per-kilowatt-hour subscription or by leasing or buying panels, in a relatively large solar project, regardless of their ability to host a typical rooftop solar system. Projects are currently in place in 29 states, with the total market expected to grow by 20 percent or more annually.

This workshop will feature speakers from utility-led community solar programs, such as those at Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Pedernales Electric Cooperative. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Thought leaders from CSVP’s own expert team, Navigant Consulting, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the Regulatory Assistance Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Rocky Mountain Institute You are leaving WAPA.gov. (RMI) will also speak. RMI’s successful Shine Project recently demonstrated ways to dramatically lower local solar procurement costs, whether for community solar programs or other utility needs.

“We’re also making time for participants to share their own unique challenges and solutions, so everyone will leave the workshop with actionable notes and resources,” Cliburn said.

Working with a utility forum group of about 10 utilities in the West, CSVP has put emphasis on practical solutions. For example, the project’s approach to pricing begins with streamlined utility-side economic analysis, but takes into account the market-target price required for program success. CSVP also has introduced new ways to package community solar with other utility program offers. And the project has published easy-to-use resource guides and checklists to help keep other tasks, from market research to completing the project RFP and procurement, on track and on budget.

Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing begins at 3:00 p.m. (MDT) on Wednesday June 7, with a “lightning round” of community solar best-practice presentations and a quick tour of WAPA’s grid simulator, followed by a cash-bar networking reception. On Thursday June 8, the workshop convenes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with lunch and breaks included. There is no cost for utility representatives to participate in this workshop, thanks to CSVP sponsorship by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and Solar Market Pathways Program and workshop co-sponsorship from the WAPA Renewable Resources Program and Extensible Energy, LLC, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the prime contractor for CSVP. Participants only cover travel and hotel costs and incidentals. For more information, see the registration website or contact workshop coordinator Nicole Enright.

Requested: Your ideas for UEF Pre-Forum Workshop topics

Deadline extended to Feb. 15, 2017!

The 37th annual Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. is just around the corner, and with it, the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government attendees. This exclusive session is a candid roundtable discussion about pressing issues facing power providers and the government agencies that support them. The program committee is inviting attendees from those sectors to share their greatest concerns in an online survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. by Feb. 8. The topics that get the most votes will be included on the workshop agenda.

This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” sums up the challenges of doing business in today’s electricity industry. The main agenda offers many perspectives on what customers want, what utilities can do to meet those expectations and what policy makers can do to help.

The workshop, however, is the place to really get into the weeds on how change is reshaping everything from daily operations to long-term planning. If you are worrying about depreciating assets or new net-zero developments in your territory, this is the place to talk about it. If you wonder what kind of skills your employees will need to manage the new environment, suggest that topic. If you are trying to figure out how to work with customers who want to install energy storage batteries on their homes or businesses, the workshop offers the chance to learn from others. And that only scratches the surface.

You don’t have to be attending the Utility Energy Forum, May 3-5, to vote in the survey. All utility professionals and government representatives can contribute their valuable and much-needed perspective. For those who miss the event, Energy Services Bulletin will be reporting on the big stories, and speaker presentations will be posted on the website.

But there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation with your colleagues to get the wheels turning. We hope you will join us at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California, to share ideas, discuss solutions and think about where you—and our industry—are going.

Resource planning course includes renewables, new technologies in mix

The time has come to start preparing to meet the challenges of resource planning in a new climate of renewable mandates, consumer expectations, federal regulations and rapidly advancing generation and storage technologies. Resource Planning for Power Systems: Integrating Renewables and New Technologies You are leaving Western's site., a one-day course being offered at Western’s Electric Power Training Center (EPTC) on April 8, is a good place to begin.

New alternatives to conventional generation are already changing capacity planning, portfolio evaluation and resource procurement decisions. Many planners—even experienced ones—may be wondering how to address these issues while still ensuring reliable and economic operation of the bulk power system.

This course will show attendees how to plan their future resource mix in the face of uncertainty. They will gain an understanding of the effect public policies, such as environmental regulations, have on the resource mix and system operations. Presentations will cover strategies for successfully integrating variable resources, storage technologies and demand-response programs into a comprehensive plan.

The agenda is designed to offer something for professionals involved in every aspect of power delivery, from utility system planners and power system operators to emerging technology vendors. Developers of transmission, renewable energy, energy storage and demand-response projects will benefit from the course, as will regulators and lawmakers.

Learn from experts
The instructors bring decades of experience in resource planning to an information-packed schedule. Attendees will learn planning basics, including commonly used calculations, from Michael Henderson, the Regional Planning and Coordination director for Independent System Operator New England. Brian Walshe, president of ION Consulting, will discuss how these principles apply to specific scenarios and how factors like regulations, environmental policies and fuel supplies can affect them.

The case of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) offers a close look at the real-world impact of aggressive renewable energy goals on resource planning. HECO Renewable Energy Planning Director Dora Nakfuji will be on hand to share her utility’s experiences.

Here to help
The EPTC will continue to be a resource to help utilities keep pace with rapid-fire changes in the electric industry. Randy Manion, Western’s Renewable Resource Program manager, will discuss plans to enhance the training center’s course offerings to include advanced renewable integration training using the EPTC’s unique model power system. Dr. Bri-Mathias Hodge, manager for the Power System Design and Studies Group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will join Manion to talk about NREL’s Visually Informed Wind Forecasting Decision Making Platform Project.

“The EPTC is moving forward on several fronts to make this happen,” said Manion. “We have partnerships underway with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory involving advanced visualization tools for control room operators. We are establishing an EPTC Utility Working group with support from some of the electric utilities leading the country in actively addressing renewable integration. Also, Western is developing an EPTC roadmap with our core partners including the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers,” he added. 

Resource Planning for Power Systems will take place at the EPTC in Golden, Colorado, convenient to several hotels and restaurants. The cost is $795, with discounts available for government employees, including municipalities. If you work for a government agency, wish to register multiple people, have questions or need more information, please contact the registrar at 720-491-1173.

Irrigation workshop keeps ag customers informed, prepared

Having information available about future operating costs, supplies and regulations help business owners make sound decisions for the coming months and years. Utilities that provide such critical information form stronger relationships with their customers, which is why High West EnergyYou are leaving Western's site. hosted an irrigation workshop on Jan. 27 at its Pine Bluff, Wyoming, headquarters.

High West Energy hosts a workshop for agriculture customers every couple of years to keep the lines of communication open with their large customers. (Photo by High West Energy)

High West Energy hosts a workshop for agriculture customers every couple of years to keep the lines of communication open with their large customers. (Photo by High West Energy)

Irrigators are among the electric cooperative’s biggest consumers and High West considers it good practice to acknowledge that customer segment and keep the lines of communication open. “We like to get irrigators together every couple of years to share new technology developments and discuss changes on the horizon to help them prepare accordingly,” said High West Public Relations and Marketing Manager Lorrell Walter.

Around 25 attendees—primarily small growers but with a significant number of agribusiness producers—turned out for a look into the crystal ball. “They got a lot of tough news this year,” acknowledged Walter, “but they appreciate knowing ahead of time, so they can plan for it.”

The tough news included rate increases anticipated for the next three years, water restrictions affecting both Wyoming and Nebraska and a low futures market. “Basically, the worst possible combination,” said High West Energy Management Advisor Joy Manning, who helped organize the workshop.

Facing, tackling challenges
Some presentations clarified the situation the growers faced, while others explored assistance available to help cope with it. Speakers from the South Platte Natural Resources DistrictYou are leaving Western's site. and Wyoming State Engineer’s OfficeYou are leaving Western's site. focused on drought conditions and new state well water regulations. The outlook for grain markets in 2016 was the topic of a presentation by a representative from Platte Valley Bank.

The workshop covered not only challenges, but solutions too. Attendees learned about strategies for dealing with climate variability and integrating photovoltaics with irrigation equipment from the University of Wyoming School of EngineeringYou are leaving Western's site. and Extension. The Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program discussed loans and grants it offers for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.

Utilities join conversation
Because water and energy use are intertwined, wholesale power providers had a place on the agenda, too. Tri-State Generation and Transmission AssociationYou are leaving Western's site. was on hand to update attendees on the G&T’s efforts to comply with the Clean Power Program and other activities. Tri-State Relationship Manager Gary Myers gave an overview of the 2016 Energy Efficiency Products Program.

Western Energy Services Representative Annette Meredith and Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann gave a short presentation on what Western is doing to support High West and its other customers. Although Western works with utilities rather than end-users, Energy Services can play a role in consumer education, noted Meredith. “Helping our customers’ customers to understand where some of their power comes from, and how electricity and water are so closely linked in the West, can help bolster efficiency programs,” she explained.

The workshop appeared to achieve that goal, observed Manning, in spite of sobering news. “The feedback was very positive,” she said. “They particularly appreciated that the information didn’t just touch on one aspect of irrigation.”

Partnering to reach customers
Getting input from many different sources is the secret to a good workshop, Walter said. “If I was going to give other utilities one piece of advice on putting together a workshop, I would tell them, ‘Don’t try to do it on your own,’” she said. “Even though I have an agricultural background, I couldn’t keep up with the hot topics.”

As the issues get more complex, pre-event research becomes more important. High West board members are a source of topics based on the concerns they hear from customers. Tri-State, High West’s wholesale provider, has helped organize past workshops. And if you find a good speaker, Walter advises, “Invite them back! Get that information out there.”

Meredith, who joined Energy Services a little over a year ago, also pitched in this time. “She really helped pull things together,” Manning added.

“Partnerships among several stakeholders are key for successful energy efficiency efforts,” said Meredith.

If your utility would like assistance in hosting a workshop for your members or customers, contact your Energy Services Representative or the Energy Services manager.

Tribal leader forum, renewables workshop scheduled in New Mexico

Albuquerque, NM
July 27-29

The Tribal Energy Program and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy have teamed up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to host two back-to-back events for Native American tribes interested in developing renewable energy on their lands. The Tribal Leader Forum on Tribal Energy and Economic Development: Tribal Utility Formation will take place July 27, followed by the Community-Scale Tribal Renewable Energy Workshop July 28-29.

How to start a utility
The Tribal Leader Forum, at the Pueblo Cultural Center Redirecting to a non-government site in Albuquerque, is the 11th in a series of planned strategic energy development forums sponsored by the Office of Indian Energy.  The focus will be on the tribal utility as a structure for long-term economic growth to meet the needs of tribal communities. Tribal leaders and staff will have the opportunity to interact with other tribes, federal agencies and energy industry experts to learn more about tribal utility formation and regulation.

A blend of informative sessions and interactive roundtables will bring beginners and experienced practitioners together for a national dialogue on fundamentals and best practices for tribal utilities. Forum objectives include:

  • Exploring the fundamental opportunities and challenges of capturing the benefits of tribal energy from the perspective of tribal utilities
  • Gaining a better understanding of the role, function and power of the tribal utility in achieving tribal policies
  • Establishing an ongoing dialogue among tribal leaders to help shape the future of tribal energy and tribal utilities.

Focus on five steps
The Community-Scale Tribal Renewable Energy Workshop, July 28-29, is a unique opportunity to learn from renewable energy project experts. Attendees will get hands-on experience using technology resource assessment tools, explore project case studies and hear about lessons learned from other tribes.

The interactive workshop is based on a dynamic new curriculum designed to walk participants through the five steps necessary to develop and finance renewable energy projects on tribal lands:

  •  Assessing project potential
  • Determining technology options
  • Refining the project
  • Implementing financing and construction
  • Planning for project operation and maintenance

This event will be held at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Albuquerque Historic Old Town, and feature a tour of Sandia National Laboratories. Coffee, a light breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack are included in the registration fee.

Register today!
The forum and workshop are limited to elected tribal leaders, tribal executives and tribal staff. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. RSVP now to secure your spot by email or by calling 303-275-3005.

Lodging available
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Albuquerque Historic Old Town is offering a limited block of rooms at a discounted rate of $94.99 single or double occupancy per room per night. A limited number of government per diem rate rooms are also available upon request. Make reservations by calling 505-842-5000.

Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy, 7/6/15

TriState members get crash course in residential energy auditing

Following a long day in the classroom, workshop attendees discuss their experience with audit tools available from Western’s Equipment Loan Program. (Left to right: Instructor Jim Herritage; Western Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann; Tim Grablander, Cherry-Todd Electric; Andy Molt, Y-W Electric; and Alantha Garrison, Gunnison County Electric.)

Following a long day in the classroom, workshop attendees discuss their experience with audit tools available from Western’s Equipment Loan Program. (Left to right: Instructor Jim Herritage; Western Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann; Tim Grablander, Cherry-Todd Electric; Andy Molt, Y-W Electric; and Alantha Garrison, Gunnison County Electric.)

A home energy audit can do many things for a utility, from soothing an upset customer to reducing overall demand. To help its members realize the full range of benefits from their audit programs, TriState Generation and Transmission Association You are leaving Western's site. recently hosted a free two-and-a-half-day workshop on residential energy audits.

The intensive workshop offered a thorough overview of the many factors that affect residential energy consumption. Attendees also learned how to calculate energy savings from typical efficiency upgrades, so important for helping consumers decide how to spend their home improvement dollars.

The crowd of more than 30 participants included TriState’s five relationship managers and representatives from Western, all of whom joined in the class work. “I think we may have set some kind of attendance record,” observed instructor Jim Herritage of Energy Auditors Inc., You are leaving Western's site. the energy services company that presented the training.

What members need
Most of the attendees were member services representatives, key account managers or energy management specialists. Some utilities have a long-established home auditing program, while others were just thinking about starting one. Experienced energy auditors from utilities such as Mountain Parks Electric Inc. You are leaving Western's site. and United Power You are leaving Western's site. came to brush up on their knowledge. “This is a really affordable way to get my CEUs [continuing education units],” said Rob Taylor, a key accounts manager for Mountain Parks. “You could take this class three or four times and still learn something.”

Many in the class, however, were attending their first training on the complexities of the home audit. Donna Venable of Continental Divide Electric Cooperative You are leaving Western's site. in Grants, New Mexico, was among those who had been doing audits only a short time. “We are starting an audit program because rates are going up and customers are complaining,” she stated. “Customers are also getting a lot smarter about energy and asking tougher questions.”

TriState Relationship Manager Gary Myers explained that the class was intended primarily to help member systems with less auditing experience. “I was getting a lot of calls from members about energy audits,” he said. “TriState has five relationship managers for 44 members in 200,000 square miles of territory. As much as we would like to, we can’t always provide technical assistance in person.”

A more practical approach was to bring co-op member services staff to one place to learn the basics of home energy auditing. “If we all learn the same concepts, steps and formulas, we can all speak the same language,” said Myers. “Our members may still call with questions, but it will be a lot easier for us to answer them.”

Curriculum evolves
Even a “basic” walk-through energy audit has many components and a laundry list of interrelated aspects the auditor must keep in mind.

The college-level class covered fuel characteristics, efficiency terms, heat behavior, the thermal envelope, types of insulation, caulking and weather-stripping, water heating, ventilation and energy-related math. To begin, each participant received a workbook and, most importantly, an Energy FactMonster, a laminated “cheat sheet” with terms, basic values and formulas.

The workbook contained a home energy audit checklist that Herritage said changes with each class. As the class went through each item, participants did, in fact, speak up with suggestions to add to the list. Member Services Director Andy Molt of Akron, Colorado-based Y-W Electric Association, You are leaving Western's site. introduced the term, “family living dynamics,” that was promptly added to the class lexicon, as well. “It describes how situations like having a new baby or an aging parent in the home might change the way a family uses energy,” he explained.

Hard, fast rules
Herritage said that he learns from every class and that the syllabus keeps evolving, but certain principles remain the same.

Energy auditors must always remember that their business is to empower customers to understand their own energy use. And that understanding can only be gained by approaching the building as a whole system, rather than focusing on the parts separately.

Herritage recommended that participants begin every service call by asking themselves three questions:

  1. Is there a problem?
  2. What is the nature of the problem?
  3. How do I fix it?

Get to the bottom of these questions, and chances are you will have a satisfied consumer. Just as important, your consumer will be likely to have a better understanding of his energy use.

When customers decide to make an improvement or repair, the best way to get the expected results is to hire technicians who have been certified by North American Technician Excellence You are leaving Western's site.. Too often, Herritage explained, on-the-job training is handed from technician to technician, and may date back decades. “Today’s high-efficiency systems must be maintained by people who studied the technology, not just each other,” he said.

Everyone benefits
At the end of the training, participants took a test and received a diploma, but the real takeaways were the intensive study, lively discussions and a clearer understanding of the audit process.

Joy Manning of High West Energy and Nancy Andrews show off their diplomas for completing Residential Energy Auditing, v.5.01.

Joy Manning of High West Energy and Nancy Andrews show off their diplomas for completing Residential Energy Auditing, v.5.01.

Participants with no auditing background discovered a new set of tools. Customer Service Representative Alice Morrison, one of six employees Sangre De Cristo Electric Cooperative You are leaving Western's site. sent to the workshop, was surprised at how much the class covered. “A lot the material was over my head, but I’m learning so much,” she admitted. “Now when customers call, I’ll have a whole new frame of reference to deal with their questions.”

Susan Kroll, who has built a strong residential audit program for Intermountain Rural Electric Association, You are leaving Western's site. called the workshop the best auditor training she has attended. “It was good to hear that other auditors have the same concerns as I do. Learning more about the science behind steps we go through automatically will make it easier to explain our recommendations to the customer,” she added.

Tim Grablander, general manager of Cherry-Todd Electric Cooperative You are leaving Western's site. in South Dakota, hopes to use home energy audits to make positive connections with residential customers. “Too often, we only see low-income consumers when they come in to pay a bill to get the electricity back on,” he acknowledged. “We would much rather help them lower their bills and keep the electricity on in the first place.”

Cherry-Todd is a member system of Basin Electric Cooperative, You are leaving Western's site. which cosponsored the workshop and plans to host one in its territory next fall. Myers considers basic audit training a good investment for wholesale power suppliers. “This workshop is helping TriState extend its workforce to better serve our consumers,” he declared.

Irrigation workshop introduces water apps for growers

Western teamed up with Nebraska Public Power District  Redirecting to a non-government site (NPPD), the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Clean Energy Ambassadors  Redirecting to a non-government site and Central Platte Natural Resource District  Redirecting to a non-government site last November to present an irrigation workshop for agriculture energy customers of NPPD members.

REAP Irrigation Energy Cost Savings: From Testing Your Pumps to Financing and Completing the Project offered an overview of load management and efficiency opportunities; the REAP program, including eligible projects and application guidelines; and a case study on a solar pumping system. Participants learned about REAP success stories and utility incentives, met equipment vendors and watched NPPD Energy Consultant Ronald Rose, Kelley Messenger of the USDA and Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann demonstrate pump testing methods.

Troy Ingram, of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, (UNL) introduced two new mobile apps the UNL Extension program  Redirecting to a non-government site developed to help growers manage their irrigation systems. Utilities and their agriculture customers can benefit from these easy-to-use tools, even if they were unable to attend the workshop.

Pricing water
The IrrigateCost app  Redirecting to a non-government site models center-pivot and gated pipe irrigation systems and the most commonly used energy sources. Using information such as acres irrigated, pumping lift, system PSI, pump and pivot life, and inches applied, the app computes total irrigation cost, along with the total cost of owning and operating a system. It also breaks down costs by irrigation well, pump, gear head, pump base, diesel engine and tank and system and calculates per-acre annual cost and per-acre-inch annual cost.

IrrigateCost breaks down the total cost of owning and operating an irrigation system to help growers determine if developing land for irrigation is going to be economically feasible. (Photo by Google App Store)

IrrigateCost breaks down the total cost of owning and operating an irrigation system to help growers determine if developing land for irrigation is going to be economically feasible. (Photo by Google App Store)

Growers make a number of management decisions based on the annualized costs of owning and operating an irrigation system, starting with whether or not to develop land for irrigation. For a system to be economically feasible, the net income from increased yields due to irrigation development must exceed the additional costs of owning and operating the system over its expected life. Once development is underway, the app can help determine design choices, including selection of energy source for pumping water, the type of distribution system, and so on. Other uses for the app include:

  • Calculating a fair crop-share rental agreement
  • Knowing what to charge for watering a portion of a neighbor’s field
  • Estimating costs to pump an acre-inch of water to help you determine how many additional bushels of a crop are needed by applying one more inch of water at the end of the irrigation season

The app is available through most phone carriers’ app stores. iPod and iPad users can get IrrigateCost from the Apple iTunes store  Redirecting to a non-government site for $1.99. In The Google App Store  Redirecting to a non-government site offers a version of the app for Android users, also $1.99.

Pricing efficiency
IrrigatePump  Redirecting to a non-government site helps to calculate the efficiency of a pumping plant and to determine the potential savings from upgrading the system.

Whether a pumping plant uses diesel, electricity, gasoline, natural gas or propane, chances are it is using 25 percent more energy than expected by the Nebraska Pumping Plant Performance Criteria  Redirecting to a non-government site (NPC). A pumping plant meeting the criteria delivers the expected amount of useful work, measured as water horsepower hours, for the amount of energy consumed. The NPC is based on field tests of pumping plants, lab tests of engines and manufacturer data on three-phase electric motors.

The user enters six numbers related to pumping lift, pressure at the discharge, acre-inches of water pumped, fuel price and total fuel used. The app then calculates a pumping plant performance rating, provides an estimated cost to bring the pumping plant up to standard and the number of years for payback on the investment at various interest rates.

Both apps provide anonymous results that users can capture and email to their own devices. The cost of IrrigatePump is $1.99 through Apple, Google or phone carriers.

Ingram noted that these apps are new and have not been through a full growing season yet, but he has used them and other agriculture apps on his own farm. Crop Water, an app UNL developed for scheduling irrigation—specifically for Nebraska soils—has been particularly helpful, he added.

Farming goes high-tech
There are now apps for almost every aspect of farming and ranching, from monitoring invasive species in your area to logging machinery maintenance, and most are free or inexpensive. Utilities might consider giving agriculture customers apps that are related to energy and water management like IrrigateCost and IrrigatePump. Apps could be great small incentives and customer relationship builders.

Just remember that not all apps are created equal. Croplife magazine  Redirecting to a non-government site suggests doing a little homework before selecting an agriculture app. Or, better yet, contact your local university extension service to find out what they recommend or offer. Farming is a tough job, and growers will appreciate anything their utilities can do to help them operate more efficiently and effectively.

[Editor’s note: Apps aren’t the only thing you can offer your ag customers. Contact Energy Services if your utility is interested in sponsoring an irrigation efficiency workshop like the one NPPD presented in Grand Island.]

Workshop focuses on improving irrigation efficiency

Inefficient irrigation systems can be costly—to the grower, the utility and the community—so Western is co-sponsoring a workshop Nov. 18 to help agricultural customers explore resources to tackle the problem.

Lots to learn
REAP Irrigation Energy Cost Savings—From Testing Your Pumps to Financing and Completing the ProjectRedirecting to a non-government site will introduce participants to free equipment-testing programs, grants and incentives to upgrade their agricultural operations. Speakers from Nebraska Public Power DistrictRedirecting to a non-government site (NPPD) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development will share:

  • Details on free programs support through NPPD, Western and other agencies
  • Hands-on training on pump testing and using infrared cameras to identify savings on energy-related costs, such as livestock watering, grain drying and shop energy

Best of all, the workshop is free to NPPD members and their agricultural customers. “We are excited about this workshop because it offers a unique perspective,” explained NPPD Energy Efficiency Consultant Ronald Rose. “Irrigation customers will learn about the types of projects that qualify for federal, state and local incentives, and how to design energy efficiency into their projects up front.”

Hear from experts
NPPD is a leader in managing irrigation loads and supporting agricultural customers. Over the past 40 years, connected irrigation horsepower served by NPPD has grown at an annual rate of 4.7 percent. Irrigation accounted for 99 percent of reported peak load controlled in 2010. The power wholesaler’s EnergyWise Pump Efficiency Program offers financial incentives for testing and upgrading eligible electric irrigation pumps to improve overall efficiency.

Irrigation accounted for 99 percent of NPPD's reported peak load controlled in 2010.

Irrigation accounted for 99 percent of NPPD’s reported peak load controlled in 2010.

NPPD recently partnered with a grower and vendor on an innovative pilot project, and Rose will be on hand to discuss lessons learned. The 25-kilowatt solar-powered irrigation system comprising 100 250-watt panels generated 40,000 kilowatt-hours in its first year of operation. “As far as we know, the system is the first of its kind in Nebraska,” he observed.

Visitors to NPPD’s website will find an operating-cost calculator and a status window to check on the daily irrigation control schedule. There is also information about specialized rates, incentives and applying for USDA energy grants.

USDA Rural Development provides from $22.8 to $75 million in grant funding to agricultural producers and small rural business owners interested in improving their energy efficiency or investing in renewable resource technology. The nationwide program is available to businesses in populations of 50,000 or less and to farmers and ranchers.

Veteran training provider
Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site (CEA), which is coordinating the event, has teamed with Western on many successful workshops, including popular infrared camera training. CEA’s free Lunchtime Webinar series presents a monthly opportunity to learn about cost-effective measures and technologies that can help small electric cooperatives save their customers energy and money.

Registration is required, so don’t wait to take advantage of this training opportunity. After registering you will receive an agenda and directions to the workshop site, the NRD Conference CenterRedirecting to a non-government site in Grand Island, Nebraska. For more information about registration or the workshop, contact Emily Stark at 406-969-1040.