By Tracy Correa
LEMOORE – More than 70 people – mostly farmers – packed a barn about 35 miles south of Fresno today (Feb. 27) to learn about PG&E programs that could help their farms operate more energy efficiently as a drought looms large in California.
The Ag Forum Workshop in this Kings County farm town was well attended by those representing large farming operations as well as small, family-run farms.
“This is one of the many ways we are hoping to reach out to the ag community and provide what we hope will be good information to help you improve your operations and your businesses,” said Marlene Murphy Roach, a PG&E senior manager with energy solutions and service in Fresno, as she welcomed the guests.
The workshop was sponsored by PG&E and the farm bureaus of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties. It is one of several planned to help PG&E’s agricultural customers who are worried about having to pump more water this year to meet their farming needs because of the drought.
The workshop provided farmers information on programs, rebates and incentives, including the Advanced Pumping Efficiency Program, a partnership with PG&E and Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology. The program subsidizes pump testing for farmers and information on how to improve pump performance. The goal is to maximize pump efficiency because efficient pumps use less energy. (Click here to see a video of how APEP works.)
Farmers were also encouraged to reach out to PG&E for a rate analysis to make sure their farms are on the correct rate plan; this can be done online by the customer or by contacting PG&E.
A representative from Staples Energy told farmers how they can take advantage of incentives by switching to low-pressure irrigation. Qualifying projects receive $5 per low-pressure sprinkler replaced or $144 per acre for sprinkler to drip conversions. The Low Pressure Irrigation Efficiency Program is a partnership between Staples Energy and PG&E.
Dr. Charles Burt, from the Irrigation Training and Research Center at Cal Poly also talked about energy-efficient watering and why it is important now, more than ever, that farmers evaluate their watering systems. “What we’re getting to, with all of the issues… is trying to do more with less,” he said. (Burt gave a demonstration on micro and drip irrigation last year in Fresno County.)
Dennis Jazmejian said he appreciated the effort by PG&E to come out and meet with farmers directly and provide them information.
Jazmejian, who represents Bill Diedrich Farms in Fresno County, said the water shortage means they will not cultivate hundreds of acres of cotton, hay and other crops. They will continue to grow tomatoes and almonds, using drip irrigation, but are looking for additional ways to save money and operate more efficiently. “There is a lot of stuff here that has been helpful,” he said.
PG&E already has been inundated with calls for new ag services, many from farmers who want to add new pumps and wells.
“We’ve had over 600 new applications since October,” said Jerry Moore, PG&E’s service planning manager for Fresno and Kern Divisions, told those in attendance. “We want to help you guys get the power as quickly as we can … especially in the crisis we’re in right now.” PG&E has added additional staff to handle the increase in applications and is working on a number of fronts to help its ag customers during this drought year.
Harold Harris, a PG&E agricultural account manager in Fresno who spearheaded the workshop, said it was important that PG&E reach out directly to farmers at an event like today’s forum. “With the drought, there are a number of programs that can help them save energy and money.”
Email Tracy Correa at email@example.com.