From the Ground Up: The Changing Energy Demands of Agricultural Irrigation

January 8, 2020

Key Points

  • In 2018, U.S. farmers and ranchers spent nearly $1.9 billion powering electric pumps to provide approximately 30.8 million acre-feet of groundwater to their crops and livestock.
  • Agricultural irrigation accounts for over one-third of all freshwater consumption in the U.S. and approximately 6% of all industrial electricity sales in Central and Western states.
  • The growth of electricity consumption for agricultural irrigation will be subject to conflicting pressures from falling groundwater levels, rising use of electric groundwater pumps, and increasing water use efficiency, among other factors.
  • By the late 2020s, many U.S. agricultural producers could find that it would cost them no more to independently power their electric irrigation pumps with solar and battery energy storage systems than it would to source power from their electric utility.
  • Electric utilities will continue to be well-positioned to help their customers identify the best means of addressing their irrigation energy needs over time. Some may conclude that building a solar and battery energy storage project – either in front of or behind the customer’s meter – could be an appropriate solution, both technologically and economically.

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