GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 182-1
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM


STOVER, Susan, Kansas Geological Survey (emerita), 2418 N Pine Grove St, Wichita, KS 67205-2013; Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave, Lawrence, KS 66047 and HILL, Mary C., Geology, University of Kansas, 1440 Naismith Dr, Lawrence, KS 66045

Groundwater depletion, droughts and rising temperatures threaten the sustainability of agricultural economies in the Central Arkansas River Basin of the High Plains. Renewable energy captured at the local level by farmers and rural communities could expand their economic opportunities. The multi-disciplinary NSF FEWtures project is researching the use of renewable energy to meet agricultural needs of (1) ammonia fertilizer and (2) treatment of poor-quality water. Coordination of renewable power through a micro-grid could improve production under the variable schedule of wind and solar energy.

“Green” carbon-free ammonia can be produced with renewable energy through a co-op or area partnership and used as fertilizer or energy storage. Renewable-energy powered water treatment could also be conducted by local businesses. One example is treatment of produced water, the highly saline water by-product of oil and gas extraction, to help meet water demands and reduce waste re-injection underground. A decision support system is being developed to help communities decide on levels of ammonia production and water treatment for their region that is “not too large, not too small” to be economically viable.

Communication with an advisory group is an important component of the study. Advisory members include experts in different discipline areas, farmers, community leaders and state legislators. To be impactful, new ideas need local leaders to undertake new enterprises. An online survey and interviews are being used to characterize producers’ operations, resource concerns, and identify early technology adopters.

Initial economic evaluations of renewable-energy powered ammonia production and treatment of produced water indicate improving competitiveness. In addition. social choice drives markets. Green ammonia and the use of otherwise unusable water have important benefits that influence decision making. The FEWtures project seeks to bring all these factors into an innovative analysis of future alternatives that will benefit farmers and local communities.