by SUSAN MANN
Ontario greenhouse farmers’ ability to launch heat and power co-generation projects is being stymied by a provincial policy limiting ventures to mainly urban areas.
Farmers across Ontario are interested in devising projects as part of the Ontario Power Authority’s Combined Heat and Power Standard Offer program. It’s for efficient use of natural-gas fired electricity generating facilities that use combined heat and power technology, it says on the OPA website. The program is for projects up to 20 MW connected to a distribution system in an area where the generation can be effectively accommodated. The OPA has allocated 150 MW of capacity for the launch period, which runs until June 30.
Tim Butters, Ontario Power Authority (OPA) spokesman, says in an email the program is restricted to certain areas for the launch period but “we will open up eligibility to the whole province if there is remaining capacity for the program after the launch period.”
Rejean Picard, CEO of Westbrook Greenhouses and chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, says the possibility that the program will opened up after the launch period doesn’t give them hope farmers will be able access this program after June 30. Farmers in Niagara and Leamington where most greenhouses are located are excluded “on the basis of wind and solar contracts that have already been awarded under the Feed-In-Tariff program,” he says.
Picard says what OPA seems to be saying is they don’t need the power in those areas of Niagara and Leamington but they need it in the urban areas of Toronto and Kitchener. Unless OPA specifically removes the exclusion of Niagara and Leamington once it opens up the program after the launch, just expanding the program province wide won’t help greenhouse growers wanting to do these projects.
Greenhouse Alliance administrator James Farrar says the program is being offered in a geographic area running from about Kitchener to Toronto. There are very few greenhouses in that designated area.
Butters says in the email the locations were chosen to ensure local distribution and transmission systems will be able to accommodate projects. They were also chosen to ensure that the most local benefit would be derived from the projects to the electricity system. Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid specified this in his Nov. 23, 2010 combined heat and power directive to the OPA.
Picard says there are potentially a couple hundred greenhouse growers interested in implementing projects of different sizes. There’s potential for 12 projects at 20 MW and then a lot of projects in the 500 kilowatt range.
Farrar says greenhouses are particularly suited to combined heat and power co-generation projects because greenhouses have the ability to store the heat generated from the system in the form of hot water for a period of time. “If the grid needs the power during the daytime and the greenhouse needs the heat more at night it is able to use the water as a short term heat sink to hold the heat. It doesn’t have to use the heat at exactly the same moment that it’s using the power.”
Another benefit to greenhouse heat and power co-generation is the carbon dioxide produced in the combustion process can be recaptured and fed to the plants, he says.
Picard says the Greenhouse Alliance has been talking to both politicians and OPA officials “to sell the idea that combined heat and power was a natural for the greenhouse industry because of our natural thermal requirements.”
In meetings with the OPA, the Greenhouse Alliance has tried to show how combined heat and power projects can work in conjunction with wind applications. “We’ve tended to take the stance that we know when the wind is not blowing we can pick up that slack,” he says.
Farrar says with greenhouse heat and power co-generation, “our growers can produce power on demand.” BF