How cut­ting win­ter heat­ing bills helped one business stay cool as a cu­cum­ber in sum­mer.

En­ergy costs put the heat on en­er­gy­in­ten­sive grow­ing op­er­a­tions, but cool think­ing can gen­er­ate in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions and a raft of ben­e­fits.

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - FRONT PAGE -

If you’re a grower, you’ll know that re­duc­ing en­ergy use with­out af­fect­ing crop yield or in­creas­ing pro­duc­tion costs is of ma­jor im­por­tance to hor­ti­cul­ture busi­nesses. It’s a chal­lenge, but it can be done. Re­na­tus Hor­ti­cul­ture has been able to achieve a win-win – in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­duc­ing fuel costs – through an en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in­vest­ment in its Waikato-based green­houses. Owner Gary Geurts in­stalled a dual en­ergy-con­serv­ing ther­mal screen and shade screen sys­tem at the 6000 square me­tres of green­houses that ser­vice his cu­cum­ber-grow­ing business at Cam­bridge. The ini­tia­tive has re­duced the business’s en­ergy costs by around $25,000 per year - and it has also boosted sum­mer crops by about 10%. “Cut­ting heat­ing costs in the win­ter was the main driver for in­stalling the screens, along­side the flex­i­bil­ity of be­ing able to pro­vide shade when it is needed in sum­mer. Rather than white­wash­ing the glasshouses, which pro­vides con­stant shade, we now have shade when we need it. “In the sum­mer we get the shade ben­e­fits and in win­ter we get the en­ergy-sav­ing ben­e­fits. We are mak­ing en­ergy sav­ings for around six months of the year.” The in­no­va­tive screens work like cur­tains, cov­er­ing the en­tire glasshouse area, and are con­trolled by com­put­ers ac­cord­ing to out­side light and tem­per­a­ture. “The shade is in­valu­able in sum­mer, then com­ing into au­tumn it is flex­i­ble when you have cool days but still some very hot ones,” said Mr Geurts. “Once you get into win­ter and there are frosts we save around 50% on en­ergy costs on a cold night. Our pipes used to run at 70-80 de­grees on a frosty night, now it’s 55-60 de­grees.” The lower the tem­per­a­ture the less coal is needed to heat the glasshouse re­sult­ing in lower car­bon emis­sions. It is es­ti­mated that in cli­mate con­trolled green­houses, en­ergy costs are around 20% of ex­penses, or 15%-18% of rev­enue, mak­ing grow­ers highly vul­ner­a­ble to ris­ing en­ergy costs and ad­di­tional en­er­gyre­lated taxes. Mr Geurts in­stalled the screen sys­tem with support from an EECA grant and es­ti­mates payback will be six to seven years. In­stead of writ­ing fuel off as a fixed cost Re­na­tus Hor­ti­cul­ture has turned the prob­lem into a so­lu­tion that de­liv­ers ben­e­fits all year round, in the form of in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity, re­duced en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, and a much more pleas­ant place to work.

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