Emphasis On Energy Efficiency

Time seems to fly by faster the older I get, and it certainly isn’t as ample as it once was. Perhaps as a grower you feel the same way, always on the go with industry events, last-minute orders and greenhouse emergencies that require your presence.

Because you’re always on the go, industry trends may slip by the wayside. Sustainability? Alternative energy? The industry can change so rapidly you may still be trying to adapt to trends other growers adapted to years ago. Still, it’s never too late to explore those trends and determine whether they make sense for your greenhouse operation.

Energy efficiency is one avenue you’ll want to explore if you haven’t done so already. Several growers have embraced alternative energy sources like corn, wood and fuel pellets, but those alternatives aren’t for everyone. The majority in the grower crowd are using natural gas and oil to heat their greenhouses, and they too are finding ways to use those sources more efficiently − be it through investments in more efficient heating systems and unit heaters or a facility redesign that delivers heat to product more efficiently.

Economic Efficiency

Although growers generally refer to energy efficiency as using less energy to receive the same level of service, it’s equally important growers are efficient with the money they spend on natural gas and oil.

Answer this question, growers: Why shouldn’t you want to buy natural gas when its cost per dekatherm is at its very lowest? According to Kube-Pak President Bill Swanekamp, who offered energy input management advice at OFA Short Course earlier this year, growers simply will never know when natural gas is at its cheapest.

The reality, Swanekamp says, is natural gas and oil are commodities. They can be bought and sold by stockbrokers and don’t necessarily have to be used. Just a few years ago, Wall Street took control of half of energy commodities. Brokers bid against each other, and the prices of energy inputs rose dramatically.

Growers have no control over rising and falling prices, but they can fix a price, pay it and get some satisfaction knowing they purchased those energy commodities within the means of their operating budget. “It’s better to say you can pay so much for X many dekatherms and then buy it with no regrets,” Swanekamp says. “Don’t be greedy, be reasonable. Fix a price you can afford as a business.”

Kube-Pak purchases most of its natural gas at fixed prices, and Swanekamp typically prefers to lock a price in for one year at a time. For Kube-Pak, there are more advantages operating at a locked price. Swanekamp has also learned from other payment approaches that turned disastrous, and you can learn from one of his greatest energy misfortunes, too.

“I was in Key West (Fla.) on vacation when the Gulf War in Kuwait started,” he says. “Immediately, I went into my room and tried to purchase a contract for natural gas. I couldn’t get the contract, and the price of natural gas sky-rocketed over the next couple days. It cost me $25,000.”

This winter, it’s unlikely natural gas and oil will be priced at some of the unmanageable rates as the ones in recent years. But that’s not to say next winter or the following one will be as manageable financially as the upcoming winter. Commodities are cyclical, and sound financial preparation is the solution when prices rise again.

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4 comments on “Emphasis On Energy Efficiency

  1. Great article; operators will be interested to learn of a breakthrough solution in DHID lighting for Greenhouse Hydroponic applications.

    High Frequency DHID Ballasts for Hydroponic Applications

    Ballast and light frequency are the most significant attributes for achieving the quickest and optimal growth yields of greenhouse plants.

    Sunlight energy, as a benchmark produces the equivalent of 100 kHz; referred to as the Photo-synthetically Active Radiation or PAR frequency. This is the ideal frequency for high yielding plant growth. Consequently, conventional hydroponic ballasts used today do not operate in the desired high frequency range equivalent to PAR or above PAR. Conventional hydroponic ballasts operate within a 40-70 kHz range, and therefore operate at a frequency well below PAR and do not provide the optimal conditions for high-yielding plant growth. Greenhouses utilizing magnetic or electronic ballasts with below PAR frequencies do not maintain the most favourable and economical growing conditions. All GloGreen digital high frequency ballasts operate within the most advantageous 100-200 kHz frequency and maximize the energy efficiency and mean time before failure specifications of all HID lamps, including High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulb applications.

    With the introduction of the GloGreen Digital Ballast for Greenhouse applications, Greenhouse operators can now maximize the return on their lighting investment and profitability due to:
    – higher yielding plant growth now possible in a shorter timeframe.
    – the higher energy and electrical efficiency of the GloGreen digital ballast.

    Opportunity For Savings:

    – Retrofit/Replace existing 1000W HID fixtures utilizing MH, CMH or HPS bulbs utilizing core and coil (magnetic) ballasts with dimmable DHID 575W digital ballasts or DHID fixtures (CMH, MH or HPS lamp).
    – Or Replace/Retrofit existing 1000W MH fixtures with 1000W-2000W+ digital ballasts to further increase plant growth yields in a shorter timeframe.
    – DHID digital high frequency ballasts operate within the most advantageous 100-200 kHz light frequency (Sun = 100kHz) and maximize the energy efficiency and mean time before failure specifications of MH, CMH and HPS lamps.
    – Greenhouse operators can now maximize the return on their lighting investment and profitability due to the higher energy and electrical efficiency of the DHID digital ballast.
    – Low cost of investment including reduced maintenance/consumable expenses make DHID the most financially viable lighting solution for greenhouse operators today.
    – Return On Investment; at $0.10/kWhr, a DHID 575W digital ballast operated 12 hours per day, 365 days a year (4380 hours) will be paid back in 1.4 years.
    – Total direct savings: 575Watts/hr per fixture (50% savings); operator can use DHID 1000W+ to increase plant growth yields/reduce grow time for less electricity expense than their existing magnetic based 1000W MH or HPS HID lighting system. Calculations including magnetic ballast energy losses (approx. 15%).

    Light Management Software Applications:

    – Light Management Software (LMS1A) utilizes wireless communication to provide ultimate control of individual DHID lighting fixtures in any facility.
    – LMS1A allows you to manage light levels by establishing zones and dictating the light levels within those zones at various time periods throughout the day.
    – End-user now has the option to simply turn off or dim areas of the building during off hours while providing full illumination in critical areas; e.g. dimming the entire production facility 50% during lunch break.
    – LMS1A management software allows you to establish a control strategy that meets all your lighting needs while driving significant cost savings.
    – Light Management Software (LMS1A) Link: http://www.accendoelectronics.com/PDF/Accendo_LMS.pdf

    Digital HID (DHID) Product Benefits and Specifications:

    – Significant (up to 75%) saving of electrical energy and maintenance costs
    – Automatic loss-of-lumen compensation as lamp ages; lamp quality brightness will degrade only

  2. Great article; operators will be interested to learn of a breakthrough solution in DHID lighting for Greenhouse Hydroponic applications.

    High Frequency DHID Ballasts for Hydroponic Applications

    Ballast and light frequency are the most significant attributes for achieving the quickest and optimal growth yields of greenhouse plants.

    Sunlight energy, as a benchmark produces the equivalent of 100 kHz; referred to as the Photo-synthetically Active Radiation or PAR frequency. This is the ideal frequency for high yielding plant growth. Consequently, conventional hydroponic ballasts used today do not operate in the desired high frequency range equivalent to PAR or above PAR. Conventional hydroponic ballasts operate within a 40-70 kHz range, and therefore operate at a frequency well below PAR and do not provide the optimal conditions for high-yielding plant growth. Greenhouses utilizing magnetic or electronic ballasts with below PAR frequencies do not maintain the most favourable and economical growing conditions. All GloGreen digital high frequency ballasts operate within the most advantageous 100-200 kHz frequency and maximize the energy efficiency and mean time before failure specifications of all HID lamps, including High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulb applications.

    With the introduction of the GloGreen Digital Ballast for Greenhouse applications, Greenhouse operators can now maximize the return on their lighting investment and profitability due to:
    – higher yielding plant growth now possible in a shorter timeframe.
    – the higher energy and electrical efficiency of the GloGreen digital ballast.

    Opportunity For Savings:

    – Retrofit/Replace existing 1000W HID fixtures utilizing MH, CMH or HPS bulbs utilizing core and coil (magnetic) ballasts with dimmable DHID 575W digital ballasts or DHID fixtures (CMH, MH or HPS lamp).
    – Or Replace/Retrofit existing 1000W MH fixtures with 1000W-2000W+ digital ballasts to further increase plant growth yields in a shorter timeframe.
    – DHID digital high frequency ballasts operate within the most advantageous 100-200 kHz light frequency (Sun = 100kHz) and maximize the energy efficiency and mean time before failure specifications of MH, CMH and HPS lamps.
    – Greenhouse operators can now maximize the return on their lighting investment and profitability due to the higher energy and electrical efficiency of the DHID digital ballast.
    – Low cost of investment including reduced maintenance/consumable expenses make DHID the most financially viable lighting solution for greenhouse operators today.
    – Return On Investment; at $0.10/kWhr, a DHID 575W digital ballast operated 12 hours per day, 365 days a year (4380 hours) will be paid back in 1.4 years.
    – Total direct savings: 575Watts/hr per fixture (50% savings); operator can use DHID 1000W+ to increase plant growth yields/reduce grow time for less electricity expense than their existing magnetic based 1000W MH or HPS HID lighting system. Calculations including magnetic ballast energy losses (approx. 15%).

    Light Management Software Applications:

    – Light Management Software (LMS1A) utilizes wireless communication to provide ultimate control of individual DHID lighting fixtures in any facility.
    – LMS1A allows you to manage light levels by establishing zones and dictating the light levels within those zones at various time periods throughout the day.
    – End-user now has the option to simply turn off or dim areas of the building during off hours while providing full illumination in critical areas; e.g. dimming the entire production facility 50% during lunch break.
    – LMS1A management software allows you to establish a control strategy that meets all your lighting needs while driving significant cost savings.
    – Light Management Software (LMS1A) Link: http://www.accendoelectronics.com/PDF/Accendo_LMS.pdf

    Digital HID (DHID) Product Benefits and Specifications:

    – Significant (up to 75%) saving of electrical energy and maintenance costs
    – Automatic loss-of-lumen compensation as lamp ages; lamp quality brightness will degrade only

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