Agricultural demand response for decarbonizing the electricity grid
Historically, the focus of the agricultural industry has been increasing profit through maximizing crop yield. Costs for energy and water are small compared to equipment and personnel, and are thus often overlooked. However, energy costs for irrigation are increasing and could be exacerbated with declining water levels in many Western states. This trend has motivated many farmers to explore sustainable irrigation water and energy management practices. Much of this new focus has been directed towards the adoption of new agricultural technologies with a misplaced assumption that technology alone will inherently bring all the benefits. On one hand, farms are going through a paradigm shift, and are turning into net electricity generators, and on the other, higher penetration of intermittent renewable sources into the electricity grid, require dynamic loads to help the grid balance its intra-hour variability and short duration ramps. The agricultural industry could be restructured to utilize larger amounts of renewable energy such as wind and solar and provide a great deal of flexibility to the grid. As emerging producers of clean energy, farmers are required to learn and speak the complex language of the electricity grid in order to monetize their energy generation while making the renewable electricity grid more resilient and reliable. In this paper, we develop a foundational approach for understanding and connecting three important concepts that can help the agricultural industry during this critical transition period. Those three concepts are: (a) current and future needs of the electricity grid, (b) available electricity market mechanisms through which farms can provide services to the grid, and (c) understanding electricity consuming/generating equipment on farms. Defining these concepts and condensing them into a standardized framework, can remove a significant barrier for enabling farms to provide services to the electricity grid while improving their bottom line.