Consider power demands when system expands

Bringing three-phase into the bin yard can cost $250,000 to $1 million. For an investment of $25,000 to $35,000, a farmer can buy a used three-phase 150KW genset like this from the Alberta oil patch. | Wall Grain photo

Cost to acquire three-phase power on the farm can range from $200,000 to $1 million.

However, those with the do-it-yourself instinct can take matters into their own hands.

“There are deals to be had if you need three-phase on the farm,” said Jayde Klassen with Wentworth Ag in Winkler, noting the slowdown in the oil patch has made some equipment more accessible.

“The most common genset (generator set) used in the oil fields is 440 volt three-phase. Power ranges from 100KW up to 300KW. A genset with low hours is typically worth about $30,000. Sometimes we buy them to keep in stock or we just direct the farmer to the best deals we know of.”

Dave Wall at Wall Grain said its common for producers to expand their handling systems but fail to consider future power demands. Soon they need 40 h.p. to run 600 bushels per hour. The need sometimes escalates to 80 h.p.

“Now the guy needs three-phase for sure,” said Wall, adding that a lot of farmers buy the Walinga pneumatic system that requires a lot of air to move grain.

“Most of our grain dryer installations now use a 75 horsepower blower, right from the dryer to all the bins. Most guys have put their bins in a row, so it’s pretty hard for us to redesign the bin yard to install a grain handling system.

“Right off the bat I need 40 horsepower, plus 75 horsepower plus maybe another 35 horsepower for various smaller fans and motors. I can’t do 150 horsepower with single phase. I must have three-phase.”

Wall said he sometimes has to tell a farmer that he should pick a different yard site, even if it’s miles away from the home yard. The new site must have natural gas, three-phase power and a hardtop road right to the driveway.

“If a farmer can find a site with two of the three factors, natural gas and hardtop road, then it’s easy to get the three-phase power. We simply haul in a genset. Or if (the electric utility) says they can bring you three-phase next year, or your system isn’t fully completed until next year, then you can easily rent a genset for a year.

“The other things about these three-phase gensets is they start right away, they run better, there’s fewer service calls. Depending on hours, $25,000 to $35,000 will buy you a good 150 horsepower genset.”

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