Greenhouse Canada

Features Energy
Delivering reliable power to the greenhouse

How new power generators are working to ensure reliable power and lower costs.


January 17, 2021
By Ashley Mantifel and Chris Michasiw

Topics

As a sector that relies heavily on maintaining a controlled environment for optimal plant health, having a sustainable power source is critical. Greenhouses are considering new ways to operate, and combined heat power systems (CHP) are growing in popularity because of their increased reliability and efficiency. The added heat recovery is also able to provide lower power costs and other added benefits.

Generators have changed

Generator technology has steadily improved over the last few decades and as a result, is producing fewer emissions than ever before. Utility-grade switchgears and controls, cooling systems with variable speed fans, and control systems with remote monitoring are all working towards greater efficiency and reduced fuel consumption.

Developments in combined cool/heat power solutions have allowed greenhouse operators to conserve energy and further reduce emissions. The system, which has the ability to run at an efficiency of up to 90 per cent, helps to offset natural gas consumption. For those businesses focused on increased sustainability, CHP helps lower energy costs by generating enough power to take the greenhouse off the power grid. This helps companies remain competitive by eliminating power outages and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The CHP system also has the ability to provide thermal energy for warming the greenhouse when natural light isn’t enough – which is especially crucial in the winter. And in the event of a power outage on the main grid, the CHP system can be used as standby power until power is restored.

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CHP after-treatment systems provide an added benefit by filtering exhaust gas from generators, which is rich in carbon dioxide. When the greenhouse temperature is regulated and sufficient lighting is provided, the atmosphere becomes enriched with CO2, potentially leading to higher yields.

Finding what works for you

The most important part of choosing the right generator involves understanding your business and your future plans. What will your operation look like in five to 10 years? How do you plan to handle unexpected demand? What support do you have to run your equipment?

Other factors such as the size of your operation, energy load, and whether you are on the power grid also play a role. And from a technical perspective, you want to understand the heat requirement, fuel availability and heat to power ratio to match the demands of your facility.

Your equipment dealer can help model full lifecycle costs to ensure present and future needs are considered upfront. This may include adding after-treatment or additional generators as your needs increase, or modelling plant operational changes.

Data management and automation

Understanding how your equipment is being used will help prevent failures and lower the total cost of ownership. New power generation technologies, combined with regularly scheduled maintenance and remote monitoring, can help manage and maintain equipment, meaning fewer repairs and lower costs in the long run. Recent advancements in installations, on-site service, equipment lifecycle analysis and preventative maintenance are also giving operators better visibility and control.

Status updates, such as runtime and fuel levels, can help ensure that your generator is running optimally. This is critical for generators used for backup power. Alerts can signal changes in temperature or oil pressure, low coolant levels and battery status. If you are on the power grid, your standby generator kicks in immediately during an outage, notifying you that it has been activated as a result of a power failure. Generators are built to respond quickly. Outages at a hospital or a bank only have 10 seconds to prevent a potentially catastrophic situation, and repercussions could be considerable at a greenhouse.

Equipment dealers can also provide real-time generator status and insights to the generator’s battery voltage and coolant temperature so operators can be confident that their generator will start on command. By understanding which equipment needs immediate attention, and having the data to prioritize the work, site managers can also better manage workflow.

Proactive measures

When a generator is properly maintained it can have a huge impact on the profitability of an operation. Technology can help and is key to supporting any successful maintenance program. Remote monitoring can advise on regularly scheduled maintenance, provide digital status checks and send you real-time intel via your mobile device.

One of the biggest challenges is having the right parts and technicians available to repair the equipment. Flexible, customized service agreements based on the business needs of the greenhouse will provide immediate access to reliable service, repairs and breakdown response. Since your equipment will be monitored remotely, you can be assured that parts are stocked and delivered on time.

Technological advancements are widespread, so ensure that your equipment dealer is familiar with greenhouse equipment and daily operations. The right partner can help provide support and insights into operations, and offer custom solutions tailored to each unique operation to improve productivity, reduce emissions, decrease downtime and keep your greenhouse operations running smoothly, even under the most challenging conditions.


Ashley Mantifel is a technology solutions  manager, and Chris Michasiw is a sales manager at Finning Canada. Visit finning.com for more information on tailored greenhouse power solutions.