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Harvesting savings with energy efficient irrigation

Pierre Hebting of Happy Vineyards on Black Sage Rd. near Oliver wanted to get off the grid, help the environment, and save money. He has been working with FortisBC to do just that. "I told them I wanted to stay off grid during peak times and irrigate in the evenings. FortisBC has a special rate for night power and it is easy to do with a drip line. We now have the computer turn on the system at night."

Night irrigation also contributes to the health of the vines. "If you irrigate a grape vine in the daytime you automatically get diseases," he explained. "The stoma of the plant reacts to heat and sunlight. When the stomata are open the carbon dioxide comes out. You put water on the leaf when they are open and disease gets in and you end up with powdery mildew. If you irrigate at night, the stomata are closed and you have very little problem with diseases."

Hebting's old irrigation system used five to seven gallons per minute, enough to leach fertilizer out of the soil. He switched to a wind fighter sprinkler in 1999, which only takes 1.8 gallons per minute. Then German Barahona of Nulton Irrigation came out to see how Hebting could further reduce energy consumption. "We discovered my pump was way too big for what I needed," said Hebting. " I went down to a 15 hp submersible eight-stage pump. It was amazing how I did all my irrigation in less time."

Through advice from pump auditor German Barahona of Nulton Irrigation, Hebting’s pumping system now uses less power and less time to irrigate.
Barahona also advised Hebting to put in drip line irrigation. He dug trenches and installed pipes and conduit so he could run electrical wiring and computerize his system. He did so with the help of the Environmental Farm Plan.

PowerSense Energy Efficiency representative, Perry Feser, came out to discuss Hebting's pumping system. "He's reduced power consumption by going from 30 hp to 15 hp and drip line irrigation," says Feser. " He’s cut his electricity use in half since 2003 and has saved him roughly $1,200 per year."

The next step is to install a variable frequency drive (VFD) on his 15 hp pump. "When you slow down the motor the energy used is drastically reduced," said Feser. "Most pumps are designed to pump a certain amount of water per minute. If you don't need that much water, you benefit by attaching a variable frequency drive to your pump. In theory if you reduced the pump volume by 20% you could save 40% on energy costs."

Hebting is also looking at putting moisture sensors into the soil so he doesn't water unless he absolutely has to.

All Hebting's upgrades have paid off. He's saved about $10,000 over the past nine years. He's also helping to protect the environment and as he put it, "If we farmers don't protect the environment who will?"


Irrigation upgrades over the last eight years have reduced
Hebting’s electricity usage by more than half.