A large family-owned ranch grows crops in a remote arid region of the
western U.S. In order to grow their crops they must constantly irrigate
from a near-by river during the months of March through October.
Due to its remote location, the local electric utility does not provide
service at this time.
Determine if there is a more economical and reliable alternative for
irrigating than using the current diesel generator (DG) sets. DG sets
are diesel engines that drive a generator to produce electricity. The
generator is then used to power electric motors that run their
- Many solutions where considered, including an array of
other distributed generation options, alternate fuel sources, and
staying with the current system.
- The decision was finally narrowed down to 2 choices. Stay
with the DGs or build a substation and line extension and take electric
service from the local utility.
- If an electric line extension is made, the irrigation pumps
will be powered from the utility and the DG sets will be used as
emergency backup (if an interruptible rate is selected) or sold for
- The ranch owner obtained all necessary siting permits and a preliminary cost estimate for building the 16-mile line extension.
- Since the rancher is the only customer requesting the line
extension, he will pay for the entire cost over a 15-year period. Our
review of the utility tariff shows that any new customers tying into
the extension in the first five years will share in the capital cost.
None are known at this time and our conservative analysis assumed that
none will be available to help defray the cost.
- Independent Energy Consultants analyzed the rancher's
electric consumption (energy, demand, power factor, load factor, time
of use, power quality, etc.) and the local utility's rate structure.
- The would be electric operating costs were then compared to
the fuel and maintenance costs of running the DGs. The analysis also
considered the efficiency and reliability of the two options.
- The optimal rate schedule from the local utility was
identified and it was determined that a 7-year project payback was
needed. In other words, in 7-years the electric bills paid to the
utility would be sufficiently lower than the DG fuel and maintenance
costs to overcome the capital cost of building the line extension.
- The family-owned ranch is expected to be operating for many
years to come, and the electric line extension project is likely to
- Finally, the utility company offers incentives to help
finance solar panel projects in this area of the country. Independent
Energy Consultants was asked to analyze the cost and of that option in
conjunction with the line extension. Our analysis showed that even with
discounts on solar panels, there were many other lower cost
alternatives for self generation of electricity.