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Success Stories

Alfalfa Farmer Saves on Diesel, REAPs Success with Off-Grid Solar

Kelly Clark
Rural Development
Operator managing controls on solar powered irrigation in Railroad Valley, Nevada.

Mark Dunn, the operator of Railroad Valley Farms in Nye County, Nevada, had a unique challenge: how do you power irrigation pumps for 500 acres of alfalfa when your farm is off the grid in one of the most remote areas of the state?

With the help of a $253,405 Rural Energy for America grant, Dunn developed and installed a system to meet the power demand that also saves money on diesel fuel.  

Two 305 kW solar PV systems were installed in 2017-18 and are now fully operational, irrigating two separate alfalfa fields; a total of 500 acres.  In 2019 (the first full year in operation) the system produced a combined 223,400 kWh in solar mode, saving 16,385 gallons of diesel fuel.

“The system is performing well,” Dunn says. “We used a little less power last year than we had projected due to a wet spring and time off for cutting, but the cost savings are real. We expect it will to save about $1 million over its lifetime.”

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