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EPIC Symposium Helps Create Agricultural Water and Energy Saving Partnership

A connection made at a California Energy Commission research and development forum led to a grant recipient being selected by a state agency to monitor energy and water savings on California farms.

Their paths crossed during the Energy Commission’s inaugural Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Symposium in 2015. The event gave the public, industry and other stakeholders an opportunity to learn about innovative clean energy research projects funded through the EPIC program.

Among the many attendees were members of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and among the presenters was San Mateo-based PowWow Energy. PowWow, in collaboration with the University of California, Davis and UC Santa Barbara, received a $2.2 million grant that year to develop a high-tech water monitoring and management system.

During his symposium presentation, PowWow CEO Olivier Jerphagnon explained how its easily deployable system collects water pump information from existing smart meters and how sensors detect plant health, soil moisture and leaks to help farmers optimize irrigation schedules without diminishing yields.

“It takes a great deal of electricity to pump water for irrigation,” said Jerphagnon. “Inefficient use of water equals a loss in food production and a waste of electricity.”

About a year after the symposium, the CDFA – through a competitive selection process – chose PowWow to monitor water and energy savings for a number of farm operations receiving State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) funds. SWEEP is a CDFA program that provides financial incentives to farmers to implement irrigation practices that save water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

During the two-year contract, PowWow will monitor changes in energy and water usage at those farms and validate greenhouse gas, energy and water reductions.

“These public-private partnerships are important, and we see such partnerships being successful in other sectors in California and throughout the world,” said Carolyn Cook, a CDFA senior environmental scientist.

The EPIC program, which was established in 2011, invests more than $120 million annually for technologies and concepts that help California meet its energy and climate goals.

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