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Rural Renewable Applications

Rural Renewable Applications

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Published by: globalrevolution on May 16, 2010
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Fact Sheet 
No. 21
No. 21
No. 21
Rural Renewable Applications 
From the 200-foot tall windmills in Hollandto those of west Texas, agricultural producershave long relied on renewable energy for theirlivelihoods. Whether the task was pumping water,drying crops or cooking, farmers have always reliedon three things: the sun, the wind, and the rain.In fact, solar energy is the key that allows farmersto unlock the Earth’s potential, whether it is thekinetic energy captured by the windmill or thephotosynthetic energy captured by plants.
Water pumping may be the most common use of renewable energy in agriculture. Three basic typesof water pumps use renewable energy.
Mechanical Windmill Pumps
These simple devices have allowed farmers andranchers to obtain the water they need for morethan a century. Today, millions of farmers aroundthe world rely on mechanical windmills for theirwater needs.
Photovoltaic-Powered Pumps
Submersible electric water pumps powered byphotovoltaic (PV) modules are suitable for smallto medium scale pumping needs up to about2 horsepower depending on the depth of thewater well. Given their simplicity, lack of movingparts and long life, these systems are growing inpopularity.
Solar powered water pump
West Texas ranchers inspect a PV  powered water pump. These reliable systems are quickly gaining popularity throughout the state.
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No. 21
No. 21
Wind Turbine-Powered Pumps
A relatively new type of pump system, thismethod uses the electricity generated by a smallwind turbine to directly power a submersible orcentrifugal pump. U.S. Department of Agriculturetests here in Texas have compared this newertechnology with mechanical windmills. Whilecosting about the same as mechanical systems,the USDA found that the wind turbine systemsproduced almost twice the volume of water.Larger wind turbines can pump enough water forsmall-scale irrigation. Solar/wind hybrid pumpingsystems are also available.
With the cost of extending a power line as highas $30,000 a mile, reliable PV and wind powersystems offer farmers and ranchers many uses theyotherwise could not afford.
Electric Generation
PV systems are simple, reliable and require littlemaintenance. While relatively expensive at about$6,000 per kilowatt, PV systems costing as littleas $50 can be a perfect fit for providing smallamounts of power around the ranch. In ruralareas where the wind is fierce, wind turbinesystems costing about $2,500 per kilowatt areusually a better investment than PV, especiallyfor applications needing a lot of energy. In somecases, large wind turbines may even provideelectricity more cheaply than the local electriccompany.
Water Tank De-Icers
An essential technology for ranchers in coldclimates, water tank de-icers are powered by a PVmodule that provides power to a small compressorthat generates air bubbles on the bottom of the water tank. The movement of the waterprevents ice from forming on the top of the tank.Performance of these units is best on tanks that aresheltered or insulated.
Electric Fences
Powered by PV modules, commercially availableunits can keep a fence electrified day and night.These units can deliver brief shocks with smallpulses of low current at around 8,000 to 12,000volts potential – more than enough to keeplivestock contained.
Gate Openers
Gate openers are an ideal candidate for PV powerbecause they are often located far from availablepower lines. Some models are brawny enough toopen gates 16 feet wide and weighing up to 250
meCHaNICal wINdmIll
Used by generations of Texasranchers, water pumping windmills continue to be placed inservice for the benefit of thirsty livestock.
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Fact Sheet 
No. 21
No. 21
pounds. These gate openers can utilize wirelessremote control mechanisms or digital keypads,both of which offer convenience and security.
Many farmers used to burn or plow under farmwastes. The advent of new technologiesthat convert biomass material fromplants or animals into valuableenergy may give farmers and ranchersmoneymaking alternatives to suchpractices.
 Agriculture Wastes
In many cases, troublesome wasteproducts from agricultural cultivationand processing can be effectivelyused as a low cost fuel for makingelectricity or process heat. Onecogeneration operation near Houstonburns rice hulls from a local mill tomake electricity that is sold to the localutility. Other candidates for agriculturalwaste feed stocks in Texas includecotton gin trash, sugarcane pulp, andpeanut shells. Commercial developmentof small biomass gasification systems maysoon assist this market. On dairies andlarge feedlots, manure can be processedto make electricity. Doing so reduces odorand potential pollution problems whileadding a revenue source.
Farming Fuel: Biofuels & Energy Crops
While Texas refineries are among thenation’s leading producers of ethanol-basedautomotive fuels, the ethanol feed stocksused in these blending operations comealmost exclusively from grain produced inmid-western states. Texas farmers growingcorn or grain sorghum would have anothermarket for their products if local biofuelproducers considered shopping locally.Over the next few years, markets may develop forthe cultivation of dedicated energy crops such asswitch grass, poplar trees or other fast-growingcrops grown specifically for energy uses. Beforelong, growing our own fuel could become areality in Texas.
CentrifugalpumpJack pumpSubmersiblepumpPump & systemcontrollerTowerWind turbine
eleCtrIC-powered water pumpING optIoNS
Different typesof electric water pumps, each suitable for different ranges of well depth and flow rate, can be driven directly by the wind turbine.
eleCtrICItY GeNeratING wINd turBINe
Rural landowners now have opportunities to earn energy royalties by leasing their land to utility-scale wind farm developers.
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