May 102011
Aerial view of center pivot irrigation - taken...

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As the saying goes, necessity breeds invention. Farmer Roger Barton needed to water his crops, and he needed fuel to run his irrigation system. The trouble came in 2008 when diesel prices reached $4.28 per gallon. (Currently, they’re about $4.12).

So Barton began looking for ways to circumvent the rising costs of keeping his hydraulic center-pivot irrigation system running over his alfalfa. These wheeled sprinkler systems rotate around a central point in the field. This allows for more uniform and controlled watering and is what forms those quilt-like circular crop patterns on the land.

What he eventually came up with was to couple his irrigation system with a hydro turbine.

Water comes to Barton’s farm from the mountains via a gravity pressurized pipe at 85 pounds per square inch (psi). But his system only needed a pressure of about 43 psi, and higher pressures sometimes damaged his sprinklers. After consulting with engineers and a pump company, the farmer decided to add a hydro turbine to his gravity flow irrigation system. The extra water pressure powers a turbine which puts the machinery into gear. No diesel required.

Barton’s estimated operating costs are now less than $100 a year. Designed by Redmond Irrigation, the system filters any sand and gravel within the water that might damage the turbine.

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