Nav: Home

Technology is studied that could save 12% of the energy used in pressurized irrigation

May 27, 2020

Irrigation agriculture not only requires a large amount of water but it also uses a significant amount of energy, which in addition to affecting the environment, constitutes a major financial burden for the agricultural sector. According to a study by the Hydraulics and Irrigation research team at the University of Cordoba and Trinity College Dublin, recovering energy in water distribution networks for irrigation could mean a 12.8% savings of energy each year.

These are the data obtained from a prediction model that analyzed the potential that this emerging technology could have in the provinces of Cordoba and Seville. This system obtains energy thanks to excess pressure in water distribution networks and uses pumps as turbines to generate electricity.

The team carried out 177 observations of 18 irrigation networks and studied the different variables such as the hydraulic configuration of the distribution system, the irrigated surface area, crop water requirements, rainfall and topographic slope. From there, and by means of artificial intelligence techniques, they were able to extrapolate the results for more than 164,000 hectares of irrigated surface area. This study makes up part of the research results for researcher Miguel Crespo's doctoral thesis studies and his advisors are Professors Juan Antonio Rodríguez and Jorge García.

According to the data obtained, the use of recovered energy during the 2018 season would have meant a savings of 21.05 de GWh (Gigawatt hours) in these provinces, which equals a savings of 12.8% for the energy consumed by these irrigation systems during the season under study. Therefore, this kind of technology could mean important financial relief for water user associations since, according to the data from the research team, the cost of energy makes up 40% of the total cost of water on average.

In addition to saving energy, this system could provide a competitive advantage since it reduces the carbon footprint of the crops, something that is valued more and more by consumers. Even so, as researcher Juan Antonio Rodríguez points out, the technology's main advantage is that "energy for irrigation could be obtained in places where there is no electricity available", and in places where diesel generators are often used to supply energy.

Nevertheless, this new irrigation system, which could be paid off in 5 or 6 years due to energy savings (faster than traditional turbines), has certain disadvantages. The pumps that work as turbines and make use of excess water pressure in order to generate energy, known as PATs (as in pump as turbines) "are efficient within a fairly limited range of flow levels, so the fluctuations common in irrigation networks could lower their performance", though "this issue could be sorted out by means of hydraulic regulation elements that would make a PAT work near its optimal performance point", explains Professor Juan Antonio Rodríguez.

With the aim of making the most of this system, the research group continues to work on this line within the framework of the international project called Redawn (Reducing the energy dependency in Atlantic water networks,, an initiative about energy efficiency and water use that aims at fostering the implementation of this hydroelectric energy-recovering technology in water distribution networks in the Atlantic area. The project, part of the 'Interreg Atlantic Area' program, envisages installing an industrial water distribution network pilot plant in Portugal, another for supplying urban areas in France and another for irrigation networks has been installed in a water users association in the town of Palma del Río (in the province of Cordoba, Spain), that began operating in April 2019 and has allowed for permanently eliminating the use of diesel generators.

University of Córdoba

Related Irrigation Articles:

Water-saving alternative forage crops for Texas livestock
With increasing drought conditions in the Texas High Plains, researchers test sorghum and pearl millet as alternatives to corn.
Technology is studied that could save 12% of the energy used in pressurized irrigation
A study, performed in two Andalusian provinces, analyzed the potential of producing electricity by means of recovering hydraulic energy by implanting new technology based on pumps working as turbines
Can oilfield water safely be reused for irrigation in California?
Reusing low-saline oilfield water mixed with surface water to irrigate farms in the Cawelo Water District of California does not pose major health risks, as some opponents of the practice have feared, a study led by Duke University and RTI International researchers finds.
Expansion, environmental impacts of irrigation by 2050 greatly underestimated
New research suggests that the amount of farmland that will need to be irrigated to feed the global population by 2050 could be up to several billion acres, far higher than scientists currently project.
Turned-down temperatures boost crops' penchant for production
Drought and heat put stress on plants and reduce grain yield.
Irrigation alleviates hot extremes
Researchers from ETH Zurich and other universities found evidence that expanding irrigation has dampened anthropogenic warming during hot days, with particularly strong effects over South Asia.
Specifying irrigation needs for container-grown plants
Open-field production of 524,000 irrigated acres of horticultural plants in the United States used 205 billion gallons of water in a recent year.
Water management grows farm profits
A study investigates effects of irrigation management on yield and profit.
Oil and gas wastewater used for irrigation may suppress plant immune systems
A new Colorado State University study gives pause to the idea of using oil and gas wastewater for irrigation.
Rice irrigation worsened landslides in deadliest earthquake of 2018 finds NTU study
Irrigation significantly exacerbated the earthquake-triggered landslides in Palu, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, in 2018, according to an international study led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) scientists.
More Irrigation News and Irrigation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at