Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come Up Short – Part 1

Installing an electrical system in a greenhouse isn’t for amateurs. There are many factors to consider, including size of operation, load demands, wire location and environmental considerations, to name a few. Growers must keep in mind immediate and future needs and prepare for emergencies when they arise. The first step is finding a qualified electrician who can be relied upon to get the job done right.

Choosing An Electrician

Depending on the type of greenhouse project, Tom Manning, a project engineer at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick, N.J., says if a grower has worked with an electrician he is comfortable with that would be the first choice to consider.

“If the grower doesn’t know an electrician suitable for the project, there are two levels of competence a grower might look for,” he says. “Consider an electrician who has some experience or can provide recommendations for working on a greenhouse project. If an electrician hasn’t worked on greenhouse projects, the grower can ask if he has worked on other agricultural facilities. These structures usually have some of the same types of needs and applications. This should provide some insight as to whether an electrician is going to be the right one for the project.”

Meeting Immediate, Future Needs

The size of a greenhouse operation is one of the biggest factors when determining the type of electrical system to install.

“For small-size operations of an acre or less, a grower is not going to have the same electrical loads for the big motors running the equipment that large operations would have,” Manning says. “The first decision a grower may face when determining the type of electrical system to install is whether it is worth putting in single-phase or three-phase electrical power.”

Manning says not all locations have three-phase power available. Where three-phase power is available, it offers the possibility of using more efficient motors and lower installation costs.

“Another consideration, which is a factor of scale, is where to locate the primary service entrance for the electricity and any additional subpanels,” he says. “In a larger operation, the greenhouse operator needs to be thinking about where the power is going to come into the facility, where the big electrical loads are and where the electricity is going to be distributed.”

An electric service entrance consists of the wires that go to the electrical pole and come into a metering device, which is typically owned by the utility company.

“The utility’s electrical wires are connected to wires that are owned by the greenhouse operator, and they go into the main electric panel. The panel can be either a single disconnect switch that can turn off the power, or it can be a main panel box that has a main disconnect breaker and circuit breakers for subcircuits,” Manning says. “The wires that come from the pole to the meter may or may not be owned by the utility. Everything on the pole belongs to the utility. That becomes an issue with installing a new service and who has to pay for the installation.”

Another consideration is expansion to make sure that the main panels and subpanels that are installed have enough room for additional circuits, as it is not uncommon for growers to install panels that are not large enough.

“The number of subpanels depends a lot on electricity usage. In most cases, it’s probably best to have one subpanel for every 2 acres and no more than four to five greenhouse zones on a single panel,” Mannning says. “If the zones are not geographically close together, a grower may want to consider more than one subpanel for every five zones. This will eliminate having to walk a long distance to get to an electric panel.”

Manning says the electrician and utility company a grower works with should be able to assist in determining the electrical capacity that will be needed for expansion.

“A grower should have sufficient amps to meet an operation’s projected needs for five to 10 years,” he says. “The minimum should be a 200 amp service. To have anything larger really depends on the size of the greenhouse and anticipated future needs.”

Preparing For Backup Power

Part of determining future needs is preparing for emergencies. When a grower is planning the electrical system installation, he should determine if he wants to add a backup generator.

“He should consider what is the critical equipment that should be backed up,” Manning says. “A grower may even want to set up an emergency panel at the time of the initial installation with a manual or automatic transfer switch to switch between the electric utility and a backup generator, even if the generator is installed at a later date.”

Manning says the electrician can recommend the size of the generator needed based on the equipment a grower wants to keep operating during a power outage.

“It’s good to have a discussion with the electrician in regards to what the emergency needs really are,” he says. “The costs are considerably higher as the size of the generator increases. A generator that is larger than necessary usually operates less efficiently.”

For more: Tom Manning, Rutgers University, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, New Brunswick, NJ 08901; (908) 310-0244; [email protected]

 

 

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Structures...
Gotham-Greens

May 15, 2018

Gotham Greens Expanding Greenhouse Production Into Baltimore

Scheduled to open in early 2019, Gotham Greens’ Baltimore facility will bring a reliable, year-round, local supply of fresh produce to serve retail, restaurant, and foodservice customers throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

Read More
Growing Innovations conference and tradeshow logo

May 14, 2018

Growing Innovations Geared to Connect Specialty Ag With Solutions

Innovation abounds in agriculture, yet it can feel sometimes as if the gap between exciting new developments and what growers actually need in their operations can be awfully wide. We at Meister Media Worldwide intend to help narrow this gap. Which is why we’re pleased to introduce Growing Innovations – an altogether new type of event that will debut Nov. 7-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV. Unlike most agricultural events and trade shows, Growing Innovations is not about technology per se, nor is it about everyday issues that growers face. Instead, this new conference and tradeshow is very acutely solutions oriented. It takes as its starting point specialty crop growers’ most pressing real-world challenges – production efficiency, labor and water shortages, logistics, and data management to name just a few – and showcases advances, both current and up-and-coming, that have the greatest potential to bring […]

Read More
VYPRxPLUS (Fluence Bioengineering)

May 7, 2018

Lighting Innovator Fluence Bioengineering Acquired by Osram

Fluence specializes in LED-based horticultural systems, using Osram LED chips, for a wide variety of applications, including vertical farming and greenhouses.

Read More
Latest Stories
Shane-Nitschke-Rough-Bros

April 11, 2018

Rough Brothers’ New Sales Manager Eager to Use Design E…

Shane Nitschke, the new Sales Manager of Rough Brothers’ Southeastern region, says his previous experience in commercial design will be a valuable resource in helping growers carry their own greenhouse vision to reality.

Read More
Greenhouse-retrofit-with-Reglazing-2

April 10, 2018

How to Decide Whether to Build a New Greenhouse Structu…

Is it time for you to update your greenhouse structure? Follow this tips from L.L. Klink to help you decide whether it’s better to retrofit an existing structure or build a new one.

Read More

April 5, 2018

Building Custom Solutions With L.L. Klink

Through its vertically integrated family of businesses and collaboration with greenhouse manufacturers and equipment suppliers, L.L. Klink Greenhouse Solutions works with growers and institutions to design, build, maintain, and furnish greenhouse structures.

Read More
GrowSpan-Series-500-Tall-Greenhouse-GrowSpan-feature

March 30, 2018

The Latest in Structures: New Greenhouse Systems Offer …

Structures manufacturers and suppliers say their grower customers are asking for new models that can accommodate a diverse crop mix, while providing flexibility in design, maintenance, and control of the environment. Here’s a closer look at some of the latest options.

Read More
Greenhouse-Snow-Load

December 18, 2017

How to Make Sure Your Greenhouse Can Withstand Heavy Sn…

Heavy snow loads can cause greenhouse structures to collapse if proper snow removal techniques are not practiced or extra support is not provided.

Read More
Adding-Heat-to-a-Greenhouse-GrowSpan

November 15, 2017

Tips on Adding Heat to Your Greenhouse for the Winter

Heating your greenhouse for the winter is important, and choosing efficient equipment and designs can help you quickly get returns on your heating investments.

Read More
Smart-Magenta-Greenhouse

November 14, 2017

Smart Solar Greenhouses Designed to Generate Energy and…

Research at the University of California Santa Cruz has shown that the first crops of tomatoes and cucumbers grown inside electricity-generating solar greenhouses are as healthy as those raised in conventional greenhouses.

Read More
BrightFarms Ohio

October 18, 2017

Leafy Greens Grower BrightFarms Building New 120,000 Sq…

The operation will provide locally grown salad greens and herbs to supermarkets in the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, OH, metropolitan areas.

Read More
Rough Brothers HopsHouse

October 18, 2017

New Greenhouse Aimed at Hydroponic Hops Producers

The new greenhouse model is the first single-solution hydroponic greenhouse for year-round hops growth, and harvests anywhere from two to five times a year.

Read More
GVZ Glasshouses

October 12, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More
Youngs Greenhouse Space Growing Feature

August 14, 2017

How Young’s Plant Farm Invests in New Structures and Eq…

The Auburn, AL-based Top 100 Grower operation is improving its production infrastructure so it can continue to efficiently produce quality plants and keep up with demand.

Read More
CS3 Greenhouse (Stuppy)

June 4, 2017

7 Factors That Can Determine the Cost of Building a New…

Want to know the main factors that determine the cost of building a new greenhouse? Phil Bishop of Stuppy has put together an overview of the expenses involved in this type of project.

Read More
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

May 28, 2017

Growers Offer Advice on What to Know Before Your Next B…

Two Top 100 Growers discuss their most recent building projects, the challenges they addressed, and what they learned during the process.

Read More
GGS Cannabis Production

April 19, 2017

Suppliers Can Offer Technical Solutions for New Cannabi…

Here’s a look at how a few manufacturers have partnered with growers to make their transition into cannabis a smooth one, whether it’s through hands-on guidance or partnering with other industry leaders.

Read More
GrowSpan Series 1000 Greenhouse (GrowSpan) feature

March 24, 2017

New Greenhouse Structure Models Emphasize Crop Protecti…

Manufacturers of new structure models say they are responding to grower concerns with designs that focus on ventilation, maximizing your space, and incorporating a wide range of crops. Here’s a look at some of their latest offerings.

Read More
Brian Munchel

March 18, 2017

Brian Munchel of Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing Dies at …

Munchel, a long-time member of the National Greenhouse Manufacturing Association, worked at Ludy Greenhouse Manufacturing for more than 30 years and was a computer-aided draftsman.

Read More
Nexus Atrium for Prides Corner

March 15, 2017

How Tech Suppliers Are Helping Growers Find Solutions

Greenhouse structures and components manufacturers highlight some of their most recent projects.

Read More

February 15, 2017

Growers Planning to Invest in Structures in 2017

Data from this year’s Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry survey indicates that growers are planning to make major investments in structures and facility upgrades this year.

Read More