Cogen optimized in greenhouses

January 22, 2014
Written by
The Ontario government gave its greenhouse industry an early Christmas present. The gift was neatly wrapped up in the government’s Long Term Energy Plan, released Dec. 2.

The cause for celebration was the provision for a new combined heat and power (CHP) program targeting greenhouse operations, agrifood and district energy.

Greenhouse vegetable grower Jan VanderHout, chairperson of The Ontario Greenhouse Alliance (TOGA), summed up the industry’s excitement.

“This announcement is a positive step forward for Ontario’s economy and environment by contributing to the recovery of carbon dioxide and heat, both co-products from the generation of electricity from natural gas, and directing them into beneficial uses in greenhouse operations.”

It’s good news indeed, but we still have considerable catching up to do compared to other regions.

The Netherlands recognized the potential of CHP for boosting greenhouse horticulture in 1987. It was then used primarily to power lights. By 2001, the Dutch government further supported cogen technology by liberalizing its electricity market, allowing growers easier access to the grid.

The result? Greenhouse cogen units now supply 10 to 15 per cent of electricity generation in the Netherlands. Growers harness the CO2 and the heat, meaning their systems are operating at 90 per cent efficiency … substantially higher than stand-alone electricity generating plants in which the heat and CO2 are wasted.

Cogen is also a winner on the environmental front. Cogen Europe, the European Association for the Promotion of Cogeneration, estimates this technology saves Europe about 200 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

Cogen Europe hosts an annual conference. The 2013 meeting featured four sessions: Cogeneration in 2050; Challenges for Industries; Micro CHP and Fuel Cells; and Cities and Bio-Energy Cogeneration. This clearly illustrates how much there is to explore with CHP, and its many opportunities.

With the rising popularity of year-round truly fresh produce, and the expanding number of Buy Local initiatives across the country, greenhouse horticulture is poised for significant growth in Canada over the next decade. CHP promotion will go a long way to help growers meet consumer demand by reining in energy costs, while at the same time providing ultra-efficient energy production for the provinces. Energy is a resource we can’t waste.

CHP and greenhouses are a perfect fit.

Let’s encourage more governments to unleash this potential.

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