I spent the day visiting as many of the exhibit halls as I could, but the majority of my time was spent in Horti Fair’s House of Technology. Willem van der Loo, Horti Fair managing director, piqued my interest when he spoke of growers making an additional living producing and selling electricity. I was curious how growers were producing electricity and how many of them were selling it.
Aroen Bechan, a representative from a Dutch electric company called Endon that helps growers sell electricity, offered me some answers. Bechan explained how many Dutch growers have turned to combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration or generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source.
“It’s a plant that also uses natural gas but produces half the amount of heat,” Bechan says. “This means that you must use twice the amount of gas to make the same amount of heat. But a generator produces up to 43 percent of electricity. This makes the total return 93 percent for each cubic meter of gas. The benefits for the electricity are high enough to compensate the additional gas and investment and also covers a reduction compared to use gas in a boiler.”
Van der Loo views the CHP usage as one of the most impressive technological Dutch developments growers are using.
“Technical solutions, for instance, cut costs in power use,” van der Loo says. “There are growers who find a solution doing just that, and they grow their own power. In some circumstances, there are growers who sell the power back to the public network or to the power producers. There are days in the year where growers earn more by selling electricity than effectively selling cucumbers or paprikash.
“In these difficult economic times, if you are ahead in your technical developments and automation, you’ll probably have a better chance to survive.”