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Solar Power Projects

Solar Pumps Replace Gas Power on Lower Musselshell Ranches

Ranchers in south central Montana know the value of sun and water. A handful of them use energy from the sun to water their cattle in sites far away from power lines.

Solar-powered pumps deliver water to stock tanks on the Painted Robe Creek watershed on the Lower Musselshell, illustrated in the two examples pictured here. The pumps, sponsored as a demonstration by the Lower Musselshell Conservation District and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, replace gas-powered equipment for off-grid ranch operations and protect the creek, which is subject to low flows late in the season.

"The quality of water in the creek is affected by low flows early and late in the season, and also from the geological formations it flows through," says Rob Krause, a technician with of the Conservation District.

Site No. 1 (metal tank and steel panels) is about a mile from the Painted Robe Creek and one mile from electricity. The system was installed on an existing well 100 feet deep with the static water at 25 feet. The Solar Jack SDS-Q-128 submersible pump was installed at 65 feet. Krause used two 80-watt Kyocera Panels mounted on a TRPM 2MOD Tracker, controlled by a PCA10-30B controller and a float switch mounted on the tank. This system will produce 1,000 gallons a day minimum at a total dynamic head of 65 feet for the eight available grazing months, or 700 gallons a day at a total dynamic head of 155 feet.

"The system works well in this location, and in the first season of use seems very reliable," Krause said. "The steel panels were put around the system for protection from cattle, deer and elk. Also, a board is in the tank for the birds to get water."

Krause said the cost of the system is comparable to burying a pipeline from another well, "and much lower than putting electricity to the site." The original source of power to pump this well was a mechanical windmill. Later, a gasoline engine that needed to be attended daily powered the system.

Site No. 2 (with the Fiberglas tank) also was previously powered by a gasoline engine and pump jack. The site is about 200 feet from Painted Robe Creek and two miles from electricity. The well is 125 feet deep with the static water at 15 feet.

The Solar Jack SDS-Q-128 submersible pump, installed at a depth of 35 feet, is powered by two 100-watt modules, controlled by a PCA10-30B controller with a lightning arrester mounted in a breaker box. The water level in the tank is regulated by a mercury float switch that can be adjusted for different on-off levels in the 1,100-gallon Fiberglas tank. This system will produce 2,000 to 2,500 gallons a day.

The solar panels on both tanks are fitted with sun tracking equipment.

"The availability of fresh reliable well water and grazing management will add pounds to the cattle for the producer," Krause said. For more information, contact:

Rob Krause
Technician NRCS
109 Railroad Ave.
Roundup, MT 59072
1-406-323-2103 ext.108
[email protected]

Lower Musselshell Conservation District photos

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