Green Farming in the High Nevada Desert
One does not have travel far from their local civilization to experience a vast wilderness without all the conveniences of modern life. In the high plains desert of central Nevada it is easy to find miles and miles of uncivilized and uncultivated land that has no access to centralized utilities. MAREH staff and volunteers worked with a local farming operation to plan and begin a transition from any dependency on centralized utilities to being a completely self-sufficient green farm operation.
One of the first activities was to complete an initial energy assessment to determine what the energy demands of the operations at the ranch were. The second part of the assessment was to identify energy conservation potentials and and what sources of renewable power were available to harness. Some of the findings of this assessment are available for review herein.
Once an working energy load was determined a micro-grid had to be designed and installed on the ranch to be able to redirect generated renewable power to where it will be used immediately or stored to meet later demand. Storage of the energy is being evaluated with several technologies being explored. Storage concepts are an integral part of the micro-grid as they need to be integrated geographically as well as electrically into the desin. First is conversion of electrical energy into hydrogen, utilizing a Stuart Energy (Hydrogenics) 8 cell hydrogen electrolyzer capable of producing 400 gge (gallons of gasoline equivalent) of hydrogen in an 8 hour period. A second approach is to pump water from the abundant surface water found on the ranch to a large storage tank on a local hill side and use it later to power a hydro-generator. Using the excess power to produce bio-fuels is also being evaluated as a storage and transportable fuel option. A fourth more conventional approach being considered is the use of storage batteries or energy storage capacitors.
Renewable energy options being explored at Clover Creek Ranch include wind energy, solar energy, hydro-power, bio-fuels, and geo-thermal.
Green farming involves more then generating electrical power, a agricultural product is necessary as well. Currently energy intensive crop production methods are being evaluated and measured to determine alternative production techniques and/or alternative crops. With an annual demand for electrical power 266,844 kWH per year at a cost of about $121,750 per year, there is a significant potential of savings opportunities. With the current cash crop being water demanding alfalfa it is important to look at alternative cash crop choices. One of these alternatives being transitioned to, is the growing of peppers. Currently several acres of land have been set aside for pepper production and a company, Caliente Peppers LLC., has been organized to process and market the crops.
In these pages we want to share in pictures some of the experiences of MAREH personnel at Caliente.