Farms participate in unique electric co-op program to minimize peak energy demand for everyone
Dairy cows and 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans keep Maurice Loehmer busy with a dizzying schedule most days. Yet it turned his head when his local electric co-op took interest in his farm – to make it more affordable to water his crops.
The Monterey, Ind.-based Loehmer Dairy enrolled 20 electric irrigators in the PowerShift® program offered by Fulton County REMC. The demand-response program was created by Wabash Valley Power Alliance (WVPA), a generation and transmission cooperative, and its member distribution co-ops to reduce the need for electricity during times when demand is highest. Demand-response programs help preserve natural resources, delay the need for new power plants and keep electric costs lower for all co-op members. Electric cooperatives participating in PowerShift offer incentives to businesses, including Loehmer Dairy, and homeowners to shift their energy use to times when it is less expensive.
“Our REMC contacted me and mentioned the program. I was interested in it because I wanted to reduce our cost,” said Loehmer, who has owned his dairy since 1983. “I’ve been able to work with it very well. It’s been quite a while, at least 10 years, if not longer.”
Fulton County REMC offers an incentive energy rate for the electricity used by irrigators that are enrolled in the program. During a PowerShift event, participating devices are shut down for several hours in the peak of the day and can be turned on once the event is over. Program participants learn that events are going to happen in advance so they can plan as needed.
“The irrigation program makes it much more cost effective,” said Loehmer, who waters his crops twice each week. “I have never had an issue with crops needing water when the irrigators have been controlled.”
Fulton County REMC has more than 215 irrigation devices that participate in the program, the second highest amount of any participating electric cooperative. Collectively, they can reduce the peak energy load by 8.2 megawatts.
“The program was received pretty well from the time it began,” said Andrew Horstman, CEO of Fulton County REMC who designed the PowerShift program in 2012 while working at Wabash Valley Power. “Over the years, it really took off and grew.”
In its first year, homeowners and businesses enrolled nearly 6,000 devices in PowerShift; the number more than doubled the following year. WVPA currently collaborates with 19 electric distribution cooperatives to offer the program, which features more than 23,000 devices that can collectively reduce peak energy load by more than 50 megawatts.
“The PowerShift program is a good option to offer members,” Horstman said. “It provides diversity and flexibility in WVPA’s power supply portfolio, and it probably will be used more as we transition to using more renewables to generate electricity.”
The irrigation option is unique for farms, which might not otherwise be able to participate in some programs offered by WVPA member co-ops, Horstman said. The electric co-ops also offer Power Moves® rebates for businesses and families to make qualifying energy efficiency upgrades to their homes and facilities, which can significantly lower long-term energy use.
“We collaborate with our member electric distribution co-ops to create unique programs and opportunities to benefit families and businesses,” said Jeff Conrad, CEO of Wabash Valley Power. “It is in our DNA as electric cooperatives to be responsive and best meet the needs of our members. We are invested in the communities we serve, and that guides everything we do every day.”