Two growers testing technology through Grid Innovation Fund
October 6, 2020 By Greenhouse Canada
As greenhouse numbers continue to grow, so does the demand for electricity.
Two greenhouse growers are testing energy-efficiency technologies in the Windsor-Essex region, supported by the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Grid Innovation Fund – pilot projects that are exploring new solutions beyond conventional electricity infrastructure.
“Today’s announcement is another step in our journey to help communities develop new options to meet local energy needs. By investing in innovation and conservation, we are supporting communities, supporting Ontario’s greenhouse sector in becoming more competitive internationally, and positioning Ontario’s electricity sector to effectively face the challenges of tomorrow,” says Terry Young, interim president and CEO, IESO.
Over $1.1 million of financial support will be provided over three years to the following project proponents and their partner organizations:
- Allegro Acres Inc.: To evaluate the performance of low-intensity light emitting diode (LED) lighting and controls used over a 24-hour period against the current practice of using high-intensity high pressure sodium (HPS) lighting over a 16 to 17-hour period. This lighting strategy has the potential to reduce electricity use by 15 to 33 percent, based on a previous study.
- Great Lakes Greenhouses Inc.: To develop an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered program that uses data and a learning algorithm to increase energy efficiency without reducing crop yield in large-scale commercial greenhouses.
“Testing and implementing sustainable agricultural practices has always been a high priority at Allegro. For this pilot project, we intend to reduce light pollution and our carbon footprint while managing the strain on the electricity grid with a fully dynamic LED lighting system. Now, for the first time ever, we’ll finally be able to supply our customers with year round, locally grown Canadian peppers,” says Gene Ingratta, president, Allegro Acres Inc.
Ontario’s greenhouses make up over 60 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse area, and electricity use in this sector is forecast to increase 180 percent from 2018 to 2024, driven in part by expansion in Windsor-Essex.
“Over 35 years, Great Lakes Greenhouses has strived to remain on the forefront of greenhouse innovation and we are excited to have a part in the continued development and evolution of this industry. We are looking forward to this opportunity to collaborate with our partners in the development of a Learning Computer for greenhouse application. This project would not have been feasible without the support of the IESO Grid Innovation Fund. Our goal will be to develop a system that allows for continued energy efficiency with a focus on data collection and analysis,” says Mark Reimer, research & business development manager, Great Lakes Greenhouses Inc.
A 2019 Greenhouse Profile Study showed the potential for energy efficiency to help manage increasing electricity demand in the sector while reducing costs for greenhouses.
This study resulted in the regionally-targeted Save on Energy Regional LED Incentive for Greenhouses – an energy-efficiency incentive to address regional reliability needs and encourage greenhouses to improve overall facility operations. The program has committed 60 GWh of energy savings and five MW of demand savings to date, with more project applications on the way.
The findings of the pilot projects will be shared with the greenhouse industry and help inform future program offerings to the sector. This investment is part of an allocated $2.5 million by the Grid Innovation Fund for indoor agriculture projects. Additional projects will be announced in the near future.
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