Assessing the potential of solar energy in pressurized irrigation networks. The case of Bembézar MI irrigation district (Spain)
The high energy requirements and the rising costs highlight the need to reduce the energy dependence of the irrigation sector. Alternative management strategies have been developed to reduce the energy consumption of the irrigated areas and to improve the efficiency in the water and energy use. In addition, the renewable energy sources are starting to be considered as an alternative to reduce energy costs with smaller environmental impacts. In this work, a new methodology, that combines sectoring as energy saving measure and solar energy, is developed. Thus, it reduces the energy requirements and the dependence on conventional energy resources. This methodology is applied to the irrigation district of Bembézar Margen Izquierda (Córdoba, Spain). The results show that organizing the network in two irrigation sectors, annual potential energy savings of 30.8% were achieved. Therefore, this measure reduces the annual energy bill in 30.4% without major investments. Then, a 2.1 MW photovoltaic would supply energy to the sector with higher energy consumption. However, conventional energy would be required (with an annual cost of € 33.6 ha-1) when solar energy is not available or it is not enough to supply the demanded flows. Both measures together would reduce the energy costs in 71.7% and the greenhouse gases emissions in 70.5%. The total investment would be M€ 2.8 but with a payback period of 8 years. At present, solar energy is a technically and economically viable alternative, which offers both economic and environmental benefits.
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