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System fuels pivot with water, hydraulics

Jeff Caldwell 06/05/2012 @ 11:16am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

With diesel fuel costs hovering above $4/gallon, filling up the tank to power a center pivot can really make you cringe.

That's no longer a problem for Roger Barton, a Utah farmer who, with the help of the USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has created a system where he no longer needs diesel to fuel his center pivots.

Barton worked with NRCS engineers to develop a hydroturbine system that uses the pressure of the pumped water to also power a hydraulic pump that powers the system around the field.

"Now when the water enters his new system it travels through the vanes of the turbine, causing the turbine to spin and turn a hydraulic pump that pumps hydraulic fluid through gears that turn the wheels, moving the long irrigation boom around the circle," according to a report from NRCS Utah's Ron Francis. "Along the way the water pressure is reduced to about 45 PSI, just the right amount to keep it from damaging the sprinkler heads."

Irrigation water in Barton's area typically flows at 85 PSI, making the latter adjustment crucial to making the system work, Francis adds.

"It not only did away with a $3,500 annual fuel bill, but it eliminates emissions from the old motor, avoids storing fuel on the farm and lessens our dependence on foreign sources of oil," Barton says. "I’d say that’s a win-win for everybody. The turbine runs a 127 acre T-L hydraulic pivot and it is still running like a charm in its fourth year of operation.”

NRCS officials estimate the annual operating cost of such a system to be around $100/year.

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