I recently had the opportunity to attend Horti Fair 2010 in Amsterdam. If you are not familiar with the show, Horti Fair is the largest greenhouse technology exhibition in the world. It began as an event for greenhouse operators in Holland, but has grown into an international event, attracting customers from around the world.
Greenhouses are well-suited for combined heat and power (CHP) applications. The genset provides heat for the greenhouse, electric power for lighting, and CO2 from the exhaust for fertilization.
In addition to hosting a booth at Horti Fair, we had the chance to re-visit several of our local greenhouse customers operating in Holland. We were excited to see some customers operating equipment (G3516A's) since 1987 with many units having over 100,000 each, along with new G3520Es in action.
We also spoke with several hundred customers at Horti Fair, and asked them about their operations around the world. Here were some common themes:
- Greenhouse operators want efficient packages so they can squeeze out every ounce of heat and power they can get while the genset is operating.
- They want a complete solution that includes not just a genset, but also an aftertreatment and heat recovery system plus integrated controls.
- They also want a local service provider who can keep them in operation by ensuring that their parts and service needs are met.
- Above all, greenhouse operators want to run their core business successfully.
I left Holland convinced that the opportunity for sustainable greenhouse farming in the Americas is much larger than has been cultivated, no pun intended. The cost of natural gas fuel has dropped considerably since 2009. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average commercial price for natural gas has gone from US$12/1000 cu.ft. in 2008 to under $6 in 2009-2010. Further, commercial and industrial natural gas prices are forecast to remain stable for the next 20 years. Since the cost of fuel is the largest single CHP system operating cost, there is a strong economic business case to be made for expanded greenhouse food production (even without government incentives) particularly in colder regions that have limited traditional farming seasons.
- Are you a greenhouse owner who has considered the economic viability of CHP?
- Are you a consultant who has worked with agricultural/horticultural customers?
- What is your experience with CHP systems in greenhouses?
- Can other regions replicate the successes in Europe?
Please share your thoughts, challenges, and success stories by posting below.
For a short description on how greenhouse CHP operations work, as well as some photos of Caterpillar's booth at Horti Fair,
see the Events tab on our Facebook page.
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