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Solar Heater to Prevent Stock Tank Freezing

Award Information

Department of Agriculture
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2012 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
Z4 Energy Systems
25 DIZZY HORSE RD Buford, WY 82052-8721
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Woman-Owned: Yes
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: Yes
Phase 2
Fiscal Year: 2012
Title: Solar Heater to Prevent Stock Tank Freezing
Agency: USDA
Contract: 2012-02149
Award Amount: $450,000.00


The SSTH directly responds to a need that was declared by Wyoming ranchers in more than 300 surveys collected during Wyoming agriculture tradeshows between 2007 and 2011. Nationwide, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather maps indicate that 29 entire states plus portions of 7 more endure freezing temperatures for at least 4 months annually. In this combined area, an estimated 663,000 agricultural producers raise beef cattle, sheep and bison, which represent 43% of the nation's livestock producers. The 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture reports beef production costs increased 30% overall between 2002 and 2007, with feed purchases showing the highest increase, up 45%. The SSTH will help improve ranching economics by cutting costs as well as opening the door to the growing market for higher-priced organic, natural and grass-fed markets. SSTH solves the problem of stock water tank freeze-over without recurring costs of fuel and grid-provided electricity. This enables longer pasture grazing which reduces the need to purchase and transport expensive harvested forages, facilitates better pasture utilization and grazing management, reduces the need for feed-lot utilization, and the time and cost to relocate animals. Pasture-raising livestock year-around also mitigates environmental problems caused by large numbers of animals in a confined space, such as high concentrations of manure that becomes a pollutant, and byproducts such as organic matter, urea, ammonia, nitrous oxide, phosphorus, carbon dioxide, pathogens, antibiotics and hormones that are released directly into the ground and air, degrading ground and surface waters and soil, and posing health hazards to humans and animals. SSTH will provide a sustainable solution to winter time tank freezing. The most common method of de-icing stock tanks is electric tank heaters, but for remote pastures without electricity this is not an option, and the few commercially available solutions have temperature, animal volume, or cost limitations: (1) Solar and wind powered aerators are ineffective below +10 degrees F., (2) Solar and geothermal "drinkers" service few animal at a time, per drinking station, (3) Propane-fired heaters have ongoing costs ranging from $1.87 to $3.97 per gallon, and (4) Wind and solar electricity generating equipment adapted for water heating has high up-front cost, in the range of $14,000 to $22,000, plus installation. According to the Wyoming surveys, non-commercial methods commonly employed to keep livestock water open are (1) 38% manually break ice with an ax or steel bar, (2) 26% run water continuously so the ground water melts through the ice layer (often employed with solar and wind-powered pumps), even though this practice wastes water and forms dangerous ice around the tank base, (3) 5% abandon pastures and relocate herds where water can be kept open, often in corrals or feed lots, as well as home-devised remedies that use combinations of insulation, geothermal sources, various methods of agitation and wood fires.

Principal Investigator:

Kevin Luke

Business Contact:

Georgia Gayle
Managing Member
Small Business Information at Submission:

25 DIZZY HORSE RD Buford, WY 82052-8721

EIN/Tax ID: 240408064
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: Yes
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: Yes