The use of solar and wind power to pump water to livestock can save money in the long run

Old windmills still dot the landscape of the Ozarks, but few have the functionally they once did. Electronic pumps have replaced the manual pumps they once powered to bring water to the surface, but the use of wind power is once again finding its place in agriculture, and it’s often being found working along side solar power.

Josh Morris, owner of Morris Renewable Energy LLC, works with farmers and ranchers to help design and install windmills and solar power. One of the main uses in agriculture is supplying water to livestock.

Why convert or add water and/or solar power on the farm?

It’s all about economics.

“People who have larger, spread out farms, might have multiple wells with electric, and you have a minimum monthly charge on a well you are hardly using,” Morris said. “That might be $30 a month, per well… It’s economically driven. A lot of people might look at it as a fad or a ‘feel-good’ thing, but the truth is, if you have an free energy source, it’s going to make sense, economically, especially since most of the technology is there; we just have to install it.”

Which is best?

“For water, really solar and wind work best in some sort of combination,” Morris said. “Often when you don’t have wind, you have a lot of sun, and when you don’t have sun, you have wind.”

He added that one of his customers relies solely on wind energy, which works well most of the time, but there are times when a solar backup would be beneficial.

“If they would add solar, they would never have to worry about it, but there are times when they have to haul water in because they can’t pump any. If you have both, you’re going to have water all the time, so that combination works well.”

What’s the cost?

The biggest question many people have is, how much does it cost.

“If you have a shallow well, and you do the work yourself, you should be able to get something going for about $1,000; you get someone else to install it, $2,500 to $3,000. Solar pumps can be really expensive, if it’s a deep well. If you have a well that’s 400-, 500-foot deep, there’s pumps that will do it, but they get to be closer to $10,000 or something like that. The key, I think, if it you’re under 200 feet, those can be pretty cost effective. Once you get past 200-foot, the pump design has to be different.

“For wind, that tends to be a little more expensive. That kind of starts where solar leaves off; you’re looking at $10,000, plus, for most wind setups. That gets to be where people like the esthetics of it; they like the look of that windmill, so they are willing to have that extra cost to have that windmill that works for them.”

While the initial costs can be staggering for some, it may be cheaper than running thousands of feet of waterlines from pasture to pasture.

“We had a nice field we wanted to get water to, but there was no electricity or water lines,” Morris said. “Since it was a shallow and down by the creek, we were able to do an alluvial-style well for under $1,000. We now have plenty of water for that field, and the hotter it is, the more sunshine we’re getting and the more water the animals are drinking, the more water is being pumped.”

Where does it work?

When considering solar and wind power, Morris said the lay of the land is important.

“It’s 100 percent based on the terrain and water table in your area,” he explained. “For a home, or structure, it’s important to be totally south-facing, and that helps with your heating if your windows are facing south. We were doing an installation, a total solar installation, for someone and it was so windy the whole time that I told him, ‘You know, you’re in the perfect spot for wind on this high ground,’ so we did that too. If you’re down in lower ground where your water table is really shallow, it’s ideal for a solar pump. Every situation has the perfect mix of renewables you might choose. It really depends on what you want and what you need.”

Does it work year round?

Water turns into ice during the bitter winters in the Ozarks, but with proper planning and instillation, solar and wind powered watering systems can function with few problems.

“I will bury storage tanks so that they are freeze proof in the winter,” Morris said. “If someone is doing at do-it-yourself, you really want to talk with someone who has some experience, or just get someone to install it.”

Does it work?

Morris utilizes what he promotes. The majority of his farming operation is completely “off the grid,” including his home.

“We have a solar pump for some of our livestock and a windmill for other water,” he said. “At our homestead, I’ve found solar works a lot easier than I thought it would be.”


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