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Greenhouses to help power electrical grid

The Windsor Star: Sharon Hill, September 1, 2007

KINGSVILLE - A Kingsville greenhouse will be the first in Ontario to produce electricity to sell to the power grid.

Great Northern Hydroponics, a 50-acre tomato greenhouse near Ruthven, is building a $20-million tri-generation complex that will burn natural gas to produce heat and carbon dioxide for the greenhouses and electricity to sell. The 12-megawatt project should be running by December.

"This is unique to Canada and certainly unique to Ontario and it's the first one of its kind," said Energy Minister Dwight Duncan Friday as he and Essex MPP Bruce Crozier got a look at the construction.

Although the same technology has been used in Europe for years, it's the first application of it in North America, said Yale Levin, executive vice-president of Soave Enterprises which owns Great Northern Hydroponics.

PURCHASE AGREEMENT

Ontario has an agreement to buy the electricity for eight to eleven cents per kilowatt. Duncan said that's in the same range as wind power.

The province estimates it can get 200 to 300 megawatts of power out of Southwestern Ontario through the program over the next few years which Duncan said is the power equivalent of half a nuclear reactor.

Duncan said the Kingsville project is very efficient and good for the environment.

"In terms of climate change and what we're able to do, this is taking 20 tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) a year out of the atmosphere and providing electricity and helping keep the greenhouse industry competitive and viable," Duncan said. "It's the way of the future."

The greenhouse industry has been looking at co-generation or tri-generation projects and alternative fuels to combat the high cost of natural gas. Instead of buying natural gas just to heat the greenhouses, the systems also burn the natural gas to make electricity. And the tomato plants need the captured carbon dioxide.

Darrin Didychuk, president of Great Northern Hydroponics, said the technology is critical to the survival of the greenhouse industry in the next 20 years.

"The objective is to bring down our cost of heating in the greenhouse," he told the MPPs as they got a quick tour Friday.

Didychuk said the same technology could be applied to small and large greenhouses and the engines could be modified to take other fuels such as animal waste or crops.

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