One of the largest operating expenses for farmers who irrigate is the energy required to operate pumping systems. A new technology — variable frequency drive (VFD) — is achieving up to 15 percent savings on energy usage.
VFD is an electronic drive system used to control electric motors. Its purpose is to vary motor speed by controlling input frequency and voltage, allowing pump performance and speed to be adjusted to better match operating conditions of the irrigation well.
By controlling the speed of the electric motor, farmers can slow the speed of the pump, reducing output (gallons per minute) without using a valve, commonly known as a squeeze valve, thus saving electricity. VFDs also conserve electricity by allowing for slow or “soft” starts, resulting in lower electric costs.
Through the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), producers in the High Plains region have an opportunity to receive financial and technical assistance to install VFDs.
Through farm bill programs like EQIP, the NRCS works one-on-one with farmers to help them improve not only natural resources in their operation, but also their operation’s efficiencies.
Greg Sokora, NRCS agriculture engineer at Lubbock, says, “By utilizing a VFD, farmers are able to adjust their electric-powered irrigation pumps to fluctuating well yields, allowing them to better manage their irrigation systems. This can save an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent on their electric costs.”
VFDs cost in the range of $7,500 to $30,000 or more, depending on horsepower. NRCS in Texas has added VFDs to their EQIP program payment schedule to help farmers with installation costs. From 2015 to date, NRCS has assisted High Plains farmers with installation of 61 VFD systems, an estimated cost of $800,000.
Farmers can go to any USDA Service Center and make an application for both financial and technical assistance for VFDs through the EQIP program. VFD is another technology advancement in farming practices to help conserve natural resources and enhance crop production.