Solar Heater to Prevent Stock Tank Freezing

Period of Performance: 01/01/2009 - 12/31/2009


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Z4 Energy Systems
Buford, WY 82052
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


The USDA reports that during 2006, per bred cow, the cost of concentrates and supplemental feed and harvested forages amounted to 64% of total feed cost (calculated at market price). Whereas, aggregate cost for pasture (cropland, private and public lands), calculated at market rental rate, amounted to 36% of total feed cost. This indicates that profitability improvement could be realized by changing from feed-lot based to pasture-based operations. 2007 and 2008 delivered unprecedented increases in energy costs that are passed on to the consumer. Unfortunately, every level of the food-supply chain, up to the consumer, suffers economically. A goal of this research is to allow ranchers to safely pasture grazing stock throughout the year. This could eliminate the practice of moving livestock herds to feed-lots to over-winter in order to provide water and feed, a practice that has been shown to produce environmental consequences. For example, concentrated numbers of cattle in feed-lots are shown to increase methane emissions, accumulate concentrations of unusable manure, making it a pollutant; and byproducts such as organic matter, urea, ammonia, nitrous oxide, phosphorus, carbon dioxide, pathogens, antibiotics, and hormones are released into the ground and air. These byproducts can degrade surface water, ground water, and soil, posing health hazards to humans and animals. A safe, reliable, low-cost, self-sufficient heating system is needed to prevent stock tank freezing. Z4 Energy Systems, LLC will explore a solar water heating approach using a solar collector and heat exchange system. The product vision is a relocatable system that could be clamped on the side of any existing stock tank, and is sized to fit in the bed of a pick-up. Built-on fencing and attachment points for standard corral panels to prevent livestock damage will also be investigated. For the Phase I project, feasibility of a full system design will be assessed through computer modeling and fabrication of a preliminary prototype that will be tested for two wintertime months. In Phase II, at least one full prototype will be field-tested through a Wyoming winter.