University of Windsor researcher Rupp Carriveau is looking at the feasibility of a novel solar renewable energy system that would both generate and store energy for Ontario greenhouse growers. The research is receiving funds from the Greenhouse Renewable Energy Technologies (GRET) research and development initiative.
“We’re looking to do two things: reduce the environmental footprint of the greenhouse sector by reducing some of its dependency on fossil fuels in the form of natural gas heating, and enabling better electrical grid capacity by generating and storing power for when it is needed,” Carriveau, director of the Environmental Energy Institute at Windsor, explains.
The system being piloted uses black solar thermal panels that are heated by the sun and the resulting output is used to heat the greenhouse. It also makes use of solar photovoltaic panels and an accompanying electrochemical battery storage system that generates and stores electricity to supplement the amount of power the provincial grid can provide to a greenhouse operation.
“We’re turning the greenhouse from a consumer to a producer of electricity and becoming an asset to the grid,” he says. “And with the new onsite energy generation, we can offload about 20 per cent of a greenhouse’s natural gas dependency; that’s enough to handle the pre-heating in the summer.”
Although the feasibility study is still ongoing, results to date indicate that the best performance comes from a combination of 90 percent solar thermal panels, 10 percent photovoltaic panels, and six autonomy hours for the battery bank.
Initial calculations, without considering any cost-sharing or other supplementary funding opportunities that might be available to growers, estimate a return on investment over 10 years.
Source: Agricultural Adaptation Council December 2, 2019 news release