Farm tests out smart-grid-like irrigation system

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BURBANK, Wash. (AP) -- Simplot is working with a rural utility and Bonneville Power Administration to develop an irrigation system that can respond to power demands on the electricity grid.

The goal is to improve flexibility in the power demand and supply chain and reduce power costs for BPA customers.

It's not an entirely new idea. Utilities in California and Idaho have paid farmers to put off irrigating to off-peak hours. But in the Pacific Northwest, there could be added significance to better managing the load.

BPA curtailed wind turbines this spring because the large volume of melting mountain snowpack left the region flush with hydropower from the Columbia Basin dams.

Irrigators shifting their power usage to when wind power is available could help alleviate the problem.