Mitigating and minimizing Energy Loss In Your Greenhouse


As energy costs continue to rise, growers to need to know what their options are to help reduce energy inefficiencies to grow healthy crops and maximize their profits.

Solar power, also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, LED lights (light-emitting diode) and infrared heaters are all some of the technologies being looked at as ways to reduce greenhouse energy costs. But the first step in any investment is to reduce any existing energy inefficiencies in your greenhouse.

Manage the temperature based on the crop and finish date. Do you grow the crop cooler for a longer period of time or warmer for a shorter period of time? It saves energy to grow at a warmer temperature for a shorter time.

Close air leaks. Seal vents, doors and fan openings with weather stripping, and cover exhaust fan openings when not in use. Fix any tears in the poly and replace any cracked or missing glass panes. Close up those leaky spots in the greenhouse. You don’t want energy savings to go out of the door or out of the poly.

Horizontal air flow fans help mix the air in the greenhouse and can help keep temperatures uniform. The fans also mix the humidity and CO2. Consistent air temperature throughout the crop will ensure the crop grows as uniformly as possible.

Install infrared (IR), anti-condensate poly film. The IR film treatment lets sunlight in but traps the radiant heat inside the greenhouse. The anti-condensate treatment reduces the surface tension on the poly allowing condensation to flow down the poly and not form droplets. You don’t have as many drops of condensation on the underside of the poly. The droplets can block sunlight, drip on plants and workers, create an environment conducive for pathogens and create safety issues such as slippery algae on the floor.

Use photoperiodic lighting on long-day plants. Long-day plants flower when the dark hours fall below their critical photoperiod. Properly timed supplemental lighting can artificially reduce the number of nighttime hours. You use photoperiodic lighting to induce flowering. The goal is to grow a quality plant as fast as you can.

Incandescent lamps alternating with compact fluorescent lamps are effective for stimulating flowering of long-day plants. LED lights can also be used to regulate flowering by photoperiodic lighting, but choose the LED lights carefully. LED lights are a major investment and there are many LED lamps available. Their light spectrum varies and sometimes causes confusion on how to use them. You need to be careful about what you’re using.

Use high-intensity light on young plants. High-intensity lights are most economical for growing young plants because you have so many plants per square foot.

Transplant larger plugs and liners. Plants in larger plug trays take less time to finish growth, but larger plugs do cost more.

Use more energy-efficient heaters. Some heat is always lost with the exhaust gases, but more energy efficient heaters lose less. The most efficient heaters for greenhouses have up to 96% thermal efficiency.

Insulate side, knee and end walls. Whenever the temperature in the greenhouse is different than the outside air, heat energy will move through the structure materials from the warm side to the cool side.

Install retractable energy curtains. The curtains shade the crop on sunny days in the spring and summer and keep heat in the greenhouse at night during the winter. Installing energy curtains isn’t going to be profitable in every situation. If you start growing in March, you’re probably not going to need one. If you’re growing in the winter to get plants to market in March, they are very cost effective.

Install more energy efficient lamps. LED lamps continue to improve and lamps with a photosynthetic photon efficacy (μmol×J–1) of greater than two are available. Make sure to ask about that efficacy number prior to purchasing lamps.

Install in-floor heat to increase substrate temperature and to decrease air temperature. You can lower your air temperature and increase your substrate temperature if you have root zone heating.

Use environmental control systems. They’re more responsive and growers don’t have to manually alter the environment several times a day.

For growers who want to consider solar, consider getting an energy audit to assess your system. That’s where you want to start.

Most public utilities and electric cooperatives offer free energy audits, but they are not the type 2 audits. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers defines three levels of energy audits types 1, 2 and 3 with the larger numbers having greater detail and accuracy.

Type 2 audits are required to participate in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

EQIP provides funding up to 75% of the cost of eligible projects that increase energy efficiency. REAP provides grants up to 25% of the total eligible project cost and loan guarantees for up to 75% of the total eligible project cost to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Now is a good time to get into a renewable energy and we would like to partner with you to evaluate your operation for energy efficiency & renewable energy.

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How Much Electricity Does It Take To Grow Marijuana? Colorado Cities Are Finding Out

Colorado’s appetite for lighting up requires a lot of lights, it turns out.Licensed marijuana growers traditionally cultivate their products indoors under very bright lights that suck a lot of electricity. With the release of the federal government’s Clean Power Plan looming, cities across the state are working to reduce their carbon footprint. Part of those efforts include persuading grows to reduce their power consumption.

Between 2012 and 2013, the latest data available, electricity use increased by 1.2 percent across the city and county of Denver. Commercial marijuana grows were responsible for nearly half of that uptick.

“We’re very keen to see what is increasing energy use, and to have half of that coming from the grow industry is definitely something we pay attention to,” said Sonrisa Lucero, a strategist for the Denver’s Office of Sustainability.

Denver marijuana grows used just 1.85 percent of the city’s overall electricity in 2013. But any uptick matters because the city set a voluntary goal to prevent total energy consumed from rising past its 2012 use levels. Lucero’s job is to make sure that energy efficiency is top of mind for new residents and businesses.

The city is working with marijuana grow operations to lower their electricity use. Or the industry may sort itself out: A growing number of outdoor and greenhouse grow operations in Colorado are emerging that could make indoor grows obsolete — or at least, less cost effective.

A $12,000 electricity bill

Colorado Harvest Company’s Flower Room No. 1 holds dozens of green plants thriving underneath 22 1,000-watt lamps.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

To understand just how much energy it takes to grow marijuana indoors, look no further than Colorado Harvest Company’s Flower Room No. 1.The room has dozens of green plants thriving underneath 22 1,000-watt lamps hanging from the ceiling. Each is the size of a small card table. An air-conditioning system prevents the lights from overheating.

“Running a cannabis company with indoor production means that you’re going to use more than your fair share of electricity,” said Tim Cullen, the company’s owner.

Cullen’s monthly electricity bill for the 10,000-square-foot warehouse runs a cool $12,000. Another marijuana grow reports spending nearly twice that amount. Cullen said he’s tried to reduce electricity use by using LED lights currently on the market, but they haven’t produced the results he needs.

“We just can’t suffer the losses of having a lower energy bill, but then not producing flowers,” he said.

Tim Cullen, the owner of the Colorado Harvest Company, stands in his grow facility in Denver on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

New LED technology under production could change this picture. But Cullen isn’t waiting for that to happen. Instead he’s building a greenhouse in Denver to commercially grow marijuana. From start to finish, the planning and construction is expected to take about six months.

Greenhouses blooming in Pueblo

Denver has about four commercial marijuana grow greenhouses. But Pueblo is leading the charge in the state, with 16 and counting. Some are small, but others cover as many as 50 acres.

Chris Markuson, director of economic development and GIS for Pueblo County, said shifting priorities are changing how and where marijuana is grown.

“At first the assumption was that the grow operations had to be tightly secured and hidden from public view,” he said. “Because the temperament of the community–and the society as a whole–has come around a little bit, the grow operations are not really seen with negative light. At least they’re not in Pueblo.”

It helps that Pueblo has marketed itself as a business-friendly lower-cost location to cultivate marijuana.

With about 30 marijuana grow businesses overall, Markuson said the majority are using “Pueblo sunshine” to grow product.

Energy use in the area is evolving with the industry. According to Black Hills Energy, which provides power to the city of Pueblo and parts of Pueblo County, 10 grow facilities used 2.1 million kWh in 2014. That’s 0.1 percent of the energy that Black Hills delivered to its Pueblo coverage area.

Laying the groundwork

As the marijuana industry evolves, Colorado cities are deciding how–or if–they want to manage the growing energy demands from the industry.

Denver isn’t considering regulations for the marijuana industry, but pushing LED lights to grows. In Boulder, the city and county are setting measures to require businesses offset their electricity use via subscription of renewable energy credits — things like community solar garden memberships.

Xcel is reportedly working with marijuana growers to update lighting so they’re as energy efficient as possible.

The attempts by utilities and cities fit into a larger movement under way right now, said Howard Geller with Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

“We can have that economic growth without electricity use increasing,” he said. “That’s going to be beneficial economically and that will help us achieve our environmental goals.”

Denver and Boulder’s work with marijuana and other businesses could be a good warm-up lap for what’s to come. The Clean Power Plan rule, expected to be finalized later this summer, will put even more pressure on states to reduce carbon emissions. Some of that reduction will come from changing where our power comes from. But Geller expects another significant portion to come from things like switching out the lightbulbs.

“Energy efficiency is a strategy that can be implemented very quickly in terms of ramping up rebate and financing programs, education efforts,” said Geller. “Whereas building new power plants–or retrofitting old power plants–that kind of initiative will take years to implement.”

This article was originally published on July 10 2015 by BY GRACE HOOD of Colorado Public Radio


Tomatoes and cucumbers appear to grow just fine—and just as healthily—in smart, solar-powered greenhouses that capture solar energy for electricity.

Scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz, have shown how crops can grow as healthily in these new greenhouses as they do in conventional greenhouses.

“We have demonstrated that ‘smart greenhouses’ can capture solar energy for electricity without reducing plant growth, which is pretty exciting,” Michael Loik, professor of environmental studies at UCSC, said in a press release. Loik is the lead author for the paper, published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Earth’s Future. 

Solar Power Trapped by a Red Roof

Bright magenta panels cover the tops of the greenhouses, soaking up sunlight and transferring the energy to photovoltaic strips. From there, electricity is produced.

The greenhouses are able to take sunlight for energy and leave the rest, allowing plants to grow using a technology called Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs). The technology, developed by co-authors Sue Carter and Glenn Alers, is less expensive and more efficient than traditional photovoltaic systems.

The team tested the growth and fruit production across 20 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, limes, peppers, strawberries and basil at two locations at the Santa Cruz campus and one in Watsonville, California. Scientists reported that 80 percent of the plants were unaffected by the slightly darker lighting from the magenta panels, and 20 percent of the crops grew better. Tomato plants needed 5 percent less water under the magenta panels.

Reducing the energy used in greenhouses is crucial since the use of greenhouses to grow food has increased by sixfold in the past 20 years, according to Loik.

Solar-powered greenhouses are one of several developments for new ways of farming in recent years.

Plants grown in the smart greenhouse were just as good as plants grown in conventional greenhouses. NICK GONZALES

Smart Greenhouse Detects Infestations

Another company, NatureSweet, has outfitted its greenhouses in Arizona with artificial intelligence, reported CNN. The plants are monitored with 10 cameras installed in the greenhouse ceilings which continuously take photographs to detect insect infestations or dying plants.

The software, developed by a company called Prospera, recognizes those problem spots and sends feedback 24/7. Previously, reported CNN, NatureSweet’s employees walked through the greenhouse in order to spot issues with the plants.

Green roofs are another method of growing food in an attempt to utilize space and close gaps in access to foods in urban areas.

In Washington, D.C., Up Top Acres has opened five urban farms on the rooftops of buildings since 2015, reported Washington City PaperGreen roofs improve storm-water collection, habitat protection and energy preservation, in addition to providing food. The company’s co-founder, Kathleen O’Keefe, told the paper that the company may not produce enough food for the city, but green roofs can change the way people think about food, in addition to utilizing unused space.

This article was originally published by BY  


Solar powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year

Fresh produce – ideally grown locally right in your backyard – is essential to a healthy diet, but with scores of people either lacking the space, time, or knowledge to cultivate their own food, for many that ideal simply isn’t attainable. Enter French company Myfood. They aim to bring food production back home, and they’re doing it with smart solar aquaponic greenhouses. These groundbreaking greenhouses, which are small enough to fit in a yard or even a city balcony, can produce 660 to 880 pounds of vegetables every year.

Myfood is pursuing the vision that everyone should be able to grow their own produce locally. To that end, they’ve come up with small family greenhouses powered by the sun that can function off-grid. Their Family22 greenhouse is 22 square meters, or around 237 square feet, and comes complete with solar panels and a rainwater collection system. Their model City offers a smaller option for those residing in busy metropolises – it’s just 38 square feet. Both models can be installed above ground, making them suitable for backyards or rooftops.

Related: The Sunbubble greenhouse is a mini Eden for your backyard

Inside the greenhouse, fish swimming around the base of vertical towers fertilize the vegetables growing – no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides needed. Inspired by permaculture, the team also developed raised beds that can surround the greenhouse for added food production. Ultimately, after several months, the beds become self-fertile.

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The greenhouses are intended for everyone from seasoned gardeners to people with zero gardening experience. Often one barrier that stands in the way of home food production is a lack of knowledge, so Myfood makes it easy for anyone to get started growing their own food through their smart structures designed to control the climate to guarantee success, according to Myfood. The team’s app enables families to remotely monitor the greenhouse.

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Myfood co-founder Mickaël Gandecki said, “The production of fresh and natural food, close to the consumer, offers a response to the environmental impact and lack of transparency of intensive, industrial agriculture.”

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Myfood recently unveiled what they described as the first European line of smart aquaponicgreenhouses at the Paris International Agricultural Show 2017 during February 25 through March 5.

In France and Benelux, a City model costs around $4,820 and the Family22 around $8,577. Those figures include installation, delivery, and tax. Outside the European Union costs are slightly different; not including installation, delivery or tax, the City is around $3,569 and the Family22 is around $6,432. You can find out more on their website here.


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