New markets may mean energy shifts
By Brandi Cowen
Consumers are more often than not the driving force behind business decisions. We are certainly seeing this in the greenhouse industry, as more people want to eat locally grown food. In the west, there is a shift for many greenhouses and farmers alike to shift some of their production away from floral products to more vegetables and fruit.
While the initial decision to switch crops is market driven, there should be some consideration as to the difference in input costs that switch is going to entail. As energy is one of the largest operating costs on a per square metre basis, it should certainly be analyzed and budgeted for prior to making any changes.
From what we have seen documented, particularly in the Netherlands, vegetable and fruit crops in a typical organization consume an additional 200 kWh/m2 (for intensive crops) for heating load over flower crops. To put that into perspective, if you are using natural gas for heating, even at today’s historically low prices, this equates to almost a $9,000 per acre increase in expenses. When it comes to cash flow, this could be a very significant change that should be considered.
Not only will the cost affect your monthly business cash output, it will mean a change in your energy consumption pattern. With a change in consumption, you will want to consider how that could impact the management of energy in your organization. It may mean that now more focus should be placed on energy being integrated in all business decisions.
For example, are changes to a more efficient greenhouse structure now warranted, what are the number of operating hours and required maintenance of equipment? We also recommend communicating regularly with your local utilities to ensure there are no utility capacity constraints or what impact an increase in usage will have on your monthly utility rate structure.
If you are unsure of what you need to look at, or lack the bandwidth to manage the analysis, look for a local expert to guide you.
Lisa Brodeur is Quality Assurance Supervisor with 360 Energy in Burlington, Ont.