West Hills Farm Services

Fast Facts

Industry: Agriculture
Location: Central Valley, CA
Program: EnerNOC Demand Response for Agriculture
DR Strategy: Curtailment only
Primary Curtailment Strategy: Temporary equipment shutdown
Service Points: 2 wells, each with 250 horsepower pumps
Annual Incentive Potential: Approximately $9,000

The Challenge

Over his 25 years in farming, Brad Gleason has learned that success comes from optimizing efficiency and minimizing costs.

Gleason and his business partner, Gregorio Jacobo, manage about 7,000 acres of pistachio and almond orchards through their company, West Hills Farm Services. For them, the old adage is wrong: money does grow on trees, which is why they carefully monitor the productivity of the trees and closely manage expenses. While Gleason and Jacobo continually make improvements to optimize yields, farming expenses continue to mount at an unnerving rate.

“Success in agriculture these days is a matter of containing and reducing costs,” says Gleason. “Productivity gains are incremental, and rising expenses are always a threat. So we’re constantly looking for ways to get more efficient. Technology advances can make a big difference.”

Meantime, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has a pricing program for large agriculture customers. The Peak Day Pricing (PDP) program includes both rate incentives and surcharges. The surcharges are a $1 per kilowatt hour penalty for using electricity during critical peak demand periods. For many agriculture customers, this means a 10-times increase over standard rates.

The Solution

West Hills Farm Services uses a significant amount of energy each year to pump water from its irrigation wells. As a result, Gleason was able to enroll two 250-horsepower irrigation pumps in EnerNOC’s Demand Response for Agriculture program in the spring of 2010. He says the enrollment process was “painless and the paperwork was simple and easy to understand.”

His operation was notified of seven critical peak demand dispatches last summer, and he was given the choice whether to participate or opt out. Once he had made the choice to participate, Brad simply logged into EnerNOC's energy intelligence software to opt into the dispatches, which ranged from two to four hours in duration. Just before the start of each dispatch, EnerNOC’s Network Operations Center sent a shutdown signal to Gleason’s pumps over the wireless network.

The Results

“Like clockwork, the pumps turned off and we started earning incentive dollars,” he explains. “The system gives you a choice whether to restart the pumps remotely or do it manually. We chose manual operation. So after each dispatch was over, I received both a voice message and an e-mail notification. We restarted the pumps and resumed our watering schedule.” Gleason says he is especially pleased with “the added value in the soil moisture monitoring and going online to see how the wells are running.”

With investments of $400,000 to $900,000 per deep well, Gleason appreciates the ability to use the EnerNOC-supplied equipment to assess pump efficiencies. With this advanced metering equipment, Gleason can anticipate any needed repairs before a well fails, creating a large, expensive problem.

Best of all, Gleason says he’s reassured that his two large wells will be sheltered from any surcharges related to PG&E’s PDP pricing plan.

The Future

West Hills Farm Services continues to look to EnerNOC for new ways to reduce energy use and to take steps toward a less energy-dependent future.

About EnerNOC Demand Response for Agriculture

EnerNOC’s Demand Response for Agriculture is a program for agriculture-based companies that pays cash incentives for reducing energy usage during critical peak demand periods.

For qualified customers, the program also provides thousands of dollars in web-to-wireless monitoring and control equipment. This equipment gives year-round visibility to critical information, such as pump on/off status, pump efficiency, soil moisture, temperature, and other data.

In addition, enrollment in the EnerNOC program shelters PG&E customers from PDP surcharges.