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​Demand Response and Agricultural Irrigation


How it Works

From a DR perspective, enabling agricultural irrigation systems to respond to demand-response events can take a variety of forms, from shutting off one or more water pumps at specific times or turning off certain water-delivery elements in response to events. Pumps and pivots can be completely shut down during times of peak demand without compromising customers’ comfort or safety, unlike some DR-enabled residential systems, which impact the customer experience directly. High rates of irrigation also coincide with summer’s high peak demand. Incentivizing farmers to shift their crop-watering schedule to a less congested time can significantly ease grid strain and free up capacity.

In addition to any financial incentives that may be associated with DR-program participation, choosing specific pumps to shut off at certain times can enable a more strategic irrigation approach. Some technologies enable farmers to set flexible schedules for their irrigation system—similar to a residential customer controlling home heating with a smart thermostat—which aligns well with DR-program participation and empowers a proactive approach to water and energy consumption.

What to Consider

DR-enabled pumps and pivots are not the only solution being used to drive down water and electrical consumption at peak times. Regional stakeholders are also exploring precision agriculture and deficit irrigation for future implementation. Precision agriculture leverages technology such as GPS and drones to shift from a uniform approach to irrigating crops to a data-driven system that ensures a specific portion of the field receives a specific amount of water—at a specific time. Deficit irrigation is a strategy for using water more efficiently, with water pumped into a reservoir at off-peak times to be stored and distributed to crops during periods of peak demand. While farming and demand response may not be the first connection that comes to mind, the daily use of agricultural equipment may create a new opportunity to reduce peak demand and simultaneously produce healthy crops and a healthy grid.