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Irrigation powered with water

The T-L in-line turbine system helps farmers save on energy costs for crops in remote areas.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

January 4, 2023

3 Min Read
T-L’s irrigation system
POWER OF WATER: T-L’s in-line turbine technology allows producers to irrigate remote locations where it may be too costly or impossible to bring in power sources.Courtesy of T-L Irrigation Co.

Where there’s water, there’s a way.

That alone helped David Kimble of Cortez, Colo., make the decision to have two hydropowered pivots from T-L Irrigation Co. installed this past year to replace three side-roll units. Kimble worked with his local T-L dealer, Jake Gordanier of Innovative Irrigation, on the installation of the two systems.

Neal Schlautman, engineering manager with T-L Irrigation Co. in Hastings, Neb., says an elevated water source drives these in-line turbine systems.

Schlautman says the system requires a minimum of 65-pounds-per-square-inch water pressure, “and that pressure is going to be split between the turbine and the pivot. So, it will first run through the turbine, and use about half of that pressure, and then you have the remaining pressure available to pressurize the pivot to irrigate with.”

The turbine systems require at least 300 gallons per minute of water flow, he explains. “With those minimums, we can run a pivot system, and anything above that will just be able to produce more power to run a longer system with more towers or a faster speed,” Schlautman says.

Given the 65 psi and 300 gallons per minute, Schlautman says a producer should be able to run a four- or five-tower pivot system, but if they have a larger field, or maybe want to run nine towers, they will need more pressure and more flow to irrigate it properly.

It takes 2.31 feet of head (drop in elevation) to generate 1 psi, according to the company’s specifications, so a minimum of 150 feet of head is necessary. Kimble’s 150 acres of grass hay benefit from a water source that provides a head of about 200 feet. He raises horses for team roping and barrel racing, as well as a few roping steers.

Beating cost of power

Schlautman says the company’s in-line turbine units shine in remote areas where it may be difficult to get fuel to operate the pivots, or there may be no electrical service to power units. As long as the minimum water requirements are met, the system will operate.

“The rising cost of electricity and the cost to extend power lines to a rural field site make turbine systems appealing,” Schlautman says.

Farmers are looking for a more economical way to supply water to these isolated areas. And while these newer systems require a little more money into the upfront fixed costs, he notes, they can be spread out over several years.

Where hydropower is an option, T-L pivots also work nicely. Schlautman explains when paired with a T-L pivot, the producer simply turns on the valve at the pivot main line, water starts moving through the turbine generating power, and the T-L hydraulic pump starts turning to create hydraulic power and pressure.

Using T-L's exclusive 80% efficient planetary gears minimizes power requirements as compared to the 40% efficient worm gears of an electric drive pivot.

“Turbines operate best with steady, constant demand for speed and water flow — making them a perfect match for the steady forward movement of hydrostatically powered T-L pivots,” Schlautman says.

The start-and-stop of electric pivots requires regulating the turbine with special valves to keep the electric generator consistently at 1,800 rpm for 60-hertz power. A hydrostatic T-L system can handle variations of 1,500 to 2,200 rpms without issue.

Although the power supply is not an issue at Kimble’s Colorado location, he says “the cost of operation, the fact that I had enough pressure to run them off of the same water they were sprinkling with was a no-brainer for me.”

He also sees labor savings of about two hours a day, and there was little standing water. He adds that “it was the first time I’ve had water all year in the past five or six years,” with the qualifier that the Cortez area did have the luxury of receiving “long, heavy rains” June through August of last year.

Water reliability with the two hydropowered pivots from T-L Irrigation allows Kimble to realize a more consistent volume of hay across the entire 150 acres.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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