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Solar Power Projects

Solar Pump Relieves Pressure on Lost Creek near Anaconda

Don and Dan Ueland own and operate a large cattle ranch near Anaconda, Montana. In late February each year, after calving season, the ranch begins moving cows and calves into a feeding area where a stack yard lies in the center of six lots. About 500 cow-calf pairs are in the lots by the end of the April, and cattle remain in the feeding area until May 1. At that time they are moved out to summer pasture.

The Uelands were looking for a way to provide water for cattle in the feeding area. The nearest water is at least one half mile away, and the nearest utility line is a similar distance away. Solar pumping was an appealing option because of the high cost of a power line extension to the site. On the other hand, the project poses a challenge because of the large number of cattle and because pumping will take place in the late winter and early spring. At that time of year, sunlight is less abundant than it would be in summer, and the site will also be subject to freezing temperatures.

The Uelands drilled a 50-foot-deep well at the stack yard, with a static water level of 25 feet and capacity of 15 gallons per minute. Working with NCAT, the ranch installed a large track-mounted solar array. Twelve 64-watt photovoltaic modules, all mounted on a single passive tracking rack, are wired to produce 45 nominal volts direct current. A one-half horsepower submersible multi-stage centrifugal pump should provide a maximum flow rate of 17.5 gallons per minute during the season of use. The ranch may remove the tracker and panels during hunting season to avoid vandalism.

Besides the strictly ranching benefits of this project, the Uelands were also interested in relieving pressure on Lost Creek, which flows through the property. In order to distribute cattle more evenly over the property, the ranch has been developing several off-stream watering sites with the assistance of Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agencies.

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