Oct. 29, 2010, Amsterdam – Dutch greenhouse cogen units are supplying 10 to 15 per cent of this country’s electricity needs, while at the same time providing growers with the waste heat and CO2.
Clearly, this is a win-win-win situation, and a proverbial “slam dunk” in optimizing energy resources.
So why aren’t we seeing more of this investment in North America?
Cogen is a reliable power source for electrical utilities that may be becoming too reliant on solar power and wind turbines as alternative energy. No breeze and no sun equals little to no power that day.
Cogen also allows the waste heat and CO2 to be put to good use in food and flower production. These units have year-round system efficiency of more than 90 per cent.
Nothing goes to waste.
Dick Kramp is the marketing program manager for greenhouse applications of Jenbacher gas engines of GE Energy. He explains that becoming energy producers has allowed the Dutch greenhouse industry to better fend off foreign competition.
There are more than 800 Jenbacher cogeneration units in the Netherlands and Belgium, of which 600 use the CO2 fertilization process. Their total electricity output is about 1500 MW.
He estimates there is the potential for about 500 megawatts of cogen power in Canada, and at least that much again in the U.S. But it’s difficult to promote the technology in North America, due to varying regulatory requirements and difficulties connecting new projects to the grid.
Greenhouse associations in Canada and the U.S. should work with cogen suppliers to encourage more of these projects. It would be a big boost for growers, and would help provinces and states maximize energy usage. Why build expensive to run and expensive to operate generating stations and then throw away the heat and CO2? It borders on the irresponsible, given the cogen alternative.
“It’s low hanging fruit,” Kramp noted. “It doesn’t take much to make it happen.”