Backup Generators: Easy Sleep Made Easy

Backup Generators: Easy Sleep Made Easy

I’ve done my share of risky things. I’ve been into extreme sports my whole life, jumped off high cliffs just for fun and driven way too fast for my own good (or the good of my insurance premiums). I’ve even dated a Sicilian girl with two large brothers before. These are just a few of the risks I’m willing to go on the record about — there’s more, believe me (and probably a lot more than I can recall!) One thing I’ve never willingly risked is my livelihood. Like many of you, I’ve been blessed to work in a field I am passionate about. Therefore, I make sure to keep my priorities straight and have backup plans in place in case something unforseen happens.

Which brings us to the topic of generators. As the chart shows, a recent survey conducted in our Benchrunner e-newsletter showed that about one-fifth of growers have no backup power generation system in place, much less one adequately-sized and properly maintained. In these days of rolling blackouts in the summer and winter ice storms, outages affecting crucial greenhouse equipment can happen for many different reasons and in any season. Your heaters and boilers need electricity. Solenoid valves control the entry of fuel, the safety controls, thermostats, intake air fans and more all run on electric power. Your environmental controls, no matter how simple, need “juice” to run the exhaust fans that vent hot air and keep the plants happy. And speaking of “juice,” what about irrigation pumps? One Southern grower who replied to our survey said of his unit, “The generator supplied power to run our well, greenhouse and the tissue culture lab and offices after two hurricanes knocked out power.” 

 

Skydiving Sans Parachute

Sound like fun to you? “Any grower going without a back-up generator is basically working without protection,” explains Peter Stuyt, president of Carpinteria, Calif.-based Total Energy Group. “A grower with 14 acres told me once that a single outage cost him about $25,000 in crop damage, so he looked at his $80,000 investment as having not a three-year but a ‘three-start ROI.'” Keep in mind that $80,000 buys a lot of bells and whistles (as well as the generator to power them) and for much less, you can get a more basic system that still fits your particular needs.

Growers from our survey had no brand preference, choosing Caterpillar, Kato, Sears, Generac, Kohler, Onan and other makes and models of various sizes to keep their nighttime sleep easy. If your budget is low, think about shopping around for used equipment — like any motor, if it has been properly maintained it will last a long time. Don’t cut too many corners, though, as the last thing you want is to need a backup system for your backup.

Peak Demand & Co-Generation

One final consideration is that these generators can actually help pay for themselves in a few key ways. Before deciding on the size of your generator, check with your local utility companies. Many allow growers who produce power to sell excess back to the grid, which might bring growers initially looking to invest in a generator into the realm of co-generation. Many utilities have special agreements in which they charge lower rates if a grower with a good backup system allows himself to be cut off from the grid in case of peak demand emergencies. Depending on where you live, your state may have incentive programs for installment of these backup systems. Finally, check with your insurance company, as having an adequate backup generator system might save on liability or crop insurance.

“If someone is trying to ensure that life goes on in a power outage, that’s totally different than trying to isolate from the grid, whether for 8,000 hours per year or as a way to reduce usage and cost during peak demand times,” says Mike Devine, gas product marketing manager for Caterpillar. A grower from our survey reported, “We’re part of an energy reduction group to reduce grid demand, as well as when we have power interruptions.” With energy prices high and unstable, grid isolation and co-generation (already used extensively in Holland and Canada) are more economically attractive options here.

Go to our Grower Tools page (www.greenhousegrower.com/grower_tools) for an article from Kato Engineering about prolonging the life of your generator, and sign up for our Benchrunner e-newsletter at www.greenhousegrower.com/benchrunner.

Leave a Reply

More From Equipment...

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Growers

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

2015 Spring Crops Report: Rain Soaks Spring Sales

Rain, rain and more rain. That was the story this spring for the large majority of growers across the U.S. And where it wasn’t too wet, it was too dry. Drought conditions cut sales in the West and Southwest. But it wasn’t all bad. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Survey declared the season a success, despite its challenges. They said beautiful weather in April and excited consumers who were ready to spend got the season going early, but then cool temps and rainy weekends throughout May and June caused confusion over when and how much to plant. Of the 189 respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Recap Survey, 53 percent identified themselves as grower-retailers, 34 percent were wholesale growers and 13 percent said they were young plant growers. Most responses came from the Midwest (27 percent), Northeast (18 percent) and Southeast (16 percent), but also […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Heating Feature image

July 27, 2015

In Hot Pursuit Of Heating Trends For The Greenhouse

From biomass boilers to hydronic-heating systems, growers have a range of options to fit their operation’s unique needs. Here’s what five manufacturers had to say about the latest trends.

Read More
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Let…

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More

June 28, 2015

Keep Your Cool In The Greenhouse

Summer is in full swing, and that means growers need to worry about protecting plants and greenhouse employees from brutal temperatures. No sweat! These product manufacturers have offerings to help beat the heat.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

June 23, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

The size of a greenhouse operation is one of the biggest factors when determining the type of electrical system to install. Part 2 of "Don't Let Your Electrical System Come Up Short" covers locating electrical wires, meeting electrical load demands and environmental considerations.

Read More
Schaefer-fan

June 23, 2015

Schaefer Ventilation Opens Distribution Center In Atlan…

Schaefer Ventilation Equipment, a manufacturer of ventilation and thermal comfort products, has opened a new distribution center in Atlanta, Ga., to increase efficiency and provide faster services to dealers. Additionally, the company has added a new staff member to its agricultural and horticultural division to help expand markets in Latin America.

Read More
HID Lighting System

June 18, 2015

Talking Shop: Using Lighting To Boost Beneficials

Peace Tree Farm was looking for a way to maintain beneficial insect populations through the winter. It found a potential solution through the use of rotating HID lighting.

Read More

June 17, 2015

Costa Farms Reduces Greenhouse Emissions With Solar Pow…

Costa Farms is seeking to make sustainability a top priority at its headquarters and two other buildings in Miami with the recent construction of new solar panels, which will replace 25 percent of the company's power usage with solar energy.

Read More
aquatrols

June 3, 2015

Aquatrols Renews Cooperative Research And Development A…

Aquatrols Corporation recently announced a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Dr. Matt Madsen and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The objective of the new CRADA is to further refine and evaluate surfactant seed coating technologies for use in wildfire rehabilitation, turf and pasture grasses, restoration species and other horticultural and agricultural systems. The three-year agreement renews a CRADA that Aquatrols first signed with the ARS in 2012. The original partnership has resulted in promising field and greenhouse trials, pending patents and initial steps toward commercialization of the surfactant seed coating technology. “We are very encouraged by the work that Dr. Madsen and his team have put together over the past three years,” says Aquatrols’ President and CEO Tracy Jarman. “This innovative technology has shown incredible potential with wide-ranging impacts in multiple industries. Aquatrols’ stated mission is to change the way the world grows and this technology has the […]

Read More
Growers are looking for low-cost options for temperature control, like circulating fans and exhaust fans.

April 10, 2015

New Ways To Give Growers Control Of The Greenhouse Envi…

From heating systems to circulation fans, manufacturing companies are finding new ways to help growers control the greenhouse environment, save on energy costs and streamline production.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

The Energy Efficient Greenhouse

New coverings technology means today’s films, plastics, shade cloths and climate screens slash heating and cooling costs while improving crop productivity year round. We checked with manufacturers to see what’s new and uncovered some best practices for buttoning up your greenhouse. Here’s what you need to know about the latest trends.

Read More
FormFlex_MTZ Hanging Basket

March 11, 2015

4 New Ways To Automate Your Operation

These new automation products can help streamline labor-intensive tasks, saving time and labor and increasing productivity.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 1, 2015

4 Lighting Products For Your Operation

These new lighting products have been developed for maximum energy efficiency in greenhouse production. Check out the slideshow to see which products are right for your operation.

Read More
LumiGrow

January 30, 2015

LumiGrow Expands Customer Base In 2014

LumiGrow, Inc. is adding more than 125 new commercial, governmental and research customers to its roster of customers, and beyond the new accounts added this year, many existing customers significantly increased the number of LumiGrow products they use and research customers made LumiGrow a part of their efforts to add to the body of knowledge about spectral science.

Read More
harvest automation featured image

January 13, 2015

Harvest Automation Extends Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation's robot rental program proved to be such a success for the company that it is being extended through the spring. The program was unveiled last year as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

January 9, 2015

Innovations In Irrigation

Need help improving your irrigation? Check out these new products.

Read More