Colorado Corn has partnered with Colorado State University's Rural Energy Center to assess the economic feasibility of solar and wind energy on farms with center pivot sprinklers. The project -- called Solar and Wind Assessments for Pivots (SWAP) -- was based on the idea that corners of fields with center pivot sprinklers could host solar arrays or wind turbines.
These systems would be tied into the grid to offset electricity used for irrigation pumping.
This past year, CSU collected survey information from 30 participants. While results were mixed, solar was found to be significantly more cost-effective than wind for each participant, with solar array sizes ranging from 4-450 kilowatts (kW). For comparison, the average home might require a 5 kW solar array, and rural electric cooperatives can choose to limit grid-tied system sizes to 25 kW.
Before incentives, systems would cost around $3,000 per kW, although 25 percent grants from USDA were factored into the assessments. If 30 percent federal tax credits were also realized, participants would have 12 to 20-plus year payback periods.
CSU's Rural Energy Center has been working with one corn grower in Phillips County who is planning to install a 15 kW solar array this fall. Click here for more information about the SWAP program, or contact Rural Energy Center Director Cary Weiner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 491-3784.