Colorado State University Establishes Center for Agricultural Energy, Solicits Applications to Conduct Irrigation Efficiency Audits

The Colorado State University Center for Agricultural Energy is now accepting applications to conduct 50 irrigation efficiency audits statewide through the Rural Energy for America Program.

The center was formed jointly by CSU Extension and the university’s College of Engineering to improve the financial positions of agricultural producers and rural Colorado communities while providing solutions to 21st century energy problems.

To apply for an audit or for more information, go to

Earlier this spring, Dallas Tonsager, Under Secretary for Rural Development with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, presented co-directors Michael Kostrzewa, research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Cary Weiner, clean energy specialist in CSU Extension, with funding to conduct the audits. Under the USDA grant, funding will allow the Center for Agricultural Energy to offer energy audits to agricultural producers with pump-driven well irrigation for only $250 – a 25 percent cost share.

Fifteen affiliated staff and faculty from Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Engineering are conducting agricultural energy audits, outreach and research for the new center.

“This effort represents a great example of the kind of collaboration that we strive for here at CSU,” said Sue James, chair of the Mechanical Engineering department. “The Center for Ag Energy is able to help identify and address the energy needs of Colorado ag producers by matching the research and service that we provide in the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural Sciences through the network of CSU Extension agents and services. In doing so, we are able to most able to effectively meet the needs of the Colorado agricultural sector.”

The center will be able to better understand the needs of Colorado producers through the input of its 15-member advisory board comprised of representatives from government agencies, utilities, agricultural organizations, and individual producers. The charge to the advisory board is to identify and address challenges in agricultural energy using a collaborative approach.

As an example of other projects initiated by the center, Kostrzewa recently worked with mechanical engineering seniors Jacqueline Hess, Christian Knapp, and Colton Wiseman to examine center pivot irrigation pumping systems in the San Luis Valley and the Republican River Valley in eastern Colorado under a grant from the state Department of Agriculture. The students helped to conduct irrigation pumping audits by measuring performance parameters such as the motor power, the well water levels, the pumping pressure, and the flow rate at several center pivot systems to determine how efficient these systems were operating and to suggest changes that could be made in the operations to reduce energy consumption and reduce energy costs for the producers.

Affiliated faculty in the center conduct research that includes such projects as variety trials of various oilseed crops with potential use as biofuel feedstocks, cost-effective means of anaerobic digestion in Colorado’s arid climate, feasibility analysis of small hydropower potential in the state’s irrigation ditches, and testing water conservation methods that could also save energy.

The Center for Agricultural Energy also conducts workshops and other outreach efforts intended to reduce energy costs for the agricultural sector.