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News Release

Partnership Plugs Resources into Electric Irrigation Systems for Delaware Farmers


United States Department of Agriculture
Natural Resources Conservation Service
1221 College Park Drive, Suite 100
Dover, Delaware 19904
For More Information:

Tim Garrahan, 302-678-4260
Dastina Wallace, 302-678-4179

Partnership Plugs Resources into Electric Irrigation Systems for Delaware Farmers

Farmers interested in converting their irrigation motors from diesel to electric have an opportunity to save energy and serious money.  A collaborative effort is underway by Delaware’s state, federal, and private partners to streamline resources to move farmers forward with electric-powered irrigation systems.  Together, this energy-saving partnership is providing landowners with direct technical and financial assistance to conserve on-farm energy while reducing gas emissions for improved air quality.  

A tool developed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) compares and analyzes the energy costs differences between diesel and electric systems.  To irrigate 100 acres of corn at 15 inches of water per acre with diesel at $3.30/gallon, energy costs equate to $11,060/season.  Using the exact scenario but switching power source to electric at an average of $.10/KWH costs $4,735/season.  The estimated cost savings in energy alone are approximately $6,000/season.

Although a beneficial switch, it is one that is quite involved�from the installation of the proper electric lines, to new motor installation, to disposal of the old engine.  The energy-saving partnership offers a range of available funding that combined could cover the majority of your total costs, if eligible.   

Delaware NRCS is offering technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers toward the cost of an electric motor, when converting from diesel, and associated installation costs through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  In FY2012, the estimated cost for an electric motor greater than 15 horsepower was $18,000.  The EQIP payment was $9,000.  Depending on the farmer’s situation, the estimated payment percentage could be more.  Although farmers cannot be ranked for a contract until the new 2012 Farm Bill policy is passed by Congress, NRCS is encouraging landowners to apply now to ensure the required steps are completed.  The first application and cutoff date is October 19, 2012. 

Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC) has an Irrigation Grant Program that helps farmers install electric service to new or converted irrigation systems.  Farmers can receive up to $15,000 to help pay for the cost of running power to new irrigation systems.  Once aimed at systems with a minimum of 40 kilowatt (kW) load, DEC is looking to expand its program to include farmers with smaller irrigation systems from 20 kW load.  This expansion project includes a new effort to convert single-phase service to three-phase service using Variable Frequency Drives, for which DEC offers grant monies to help absorb the costs of conversion.

Since the program began, DEC has provided $600,000 in funds to bring 120 irrigations systems electric power.  Of those, 45 have been conversions from diesel.  To get DEC funding, producers must agree to a load program that allows DEC control of the availability of electric power during high peak hours. 

The Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has grants available to DEC members for conversion of the irrigation motors from diesel to electric.  The grant provides 30 percent of the total non-utility cost of the conversion.  Costs covered include parts and labor associated with electric motor and starter installation, removal of existing gear head and components, and electrician costs.  This Cooperative program is funded through the State of Delaware’s Energy Efficiency Investment Fund.

USDA’s Rural Development (RD) has a grant available through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to help agricultural producers purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements in rural areas.  Recipients can receive up to 25 percent of the total cost of the project through REAP.  An eligible project under REAP would include landowner costs associated with the installation of three-phase transmission power lines.  REAP grants can only be combined with EQIP financial assistance if there is no duplicative funding for the same practice. 

Farmers Jeff and Glen Wells of Carlton Wells & Sons irrigate approximately 3,500 acres of corn in Milton, Delaware.  They have had diesel motors on their sprinkler irrigation system for 20 plus years, but within the last 12-15 years have converted several of their irrigation systems to electric.  According to Jeff Wells, electric is definitely cheaper, cleaner, and more convenient.  However, the issue with conversion was always the cost to get the electric lines where needed.  Jeff and his brother Glen recently used DEC’s irrigation program.  He says with DEC paying for half the installation costs, “that’s a big help.”  In terms of operational differences, he hasn’t noticed a difference in his crop production, but has in his wallet.  “I save at least a third of my operating costs now.”

Farmers interested in receiving electric service, should first contact DEC for availability.  For more information on EQIP, please visit your local USDA Service Center or visit  To learn more about DEC’s grant program and the state’s energy efficiency grants, please visit and click �Grants, Rebates and Interconnection.’  Visit for additional information on REAP grants.  


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