When in 2013 Gruppo AB, together with a few former Jenbacher employees, created AB Greenhouse Power Netherlands (ABGPN), it was with a vision of taking cogeneration in the greenhouse sector to a whole new level.
Over a period of more than 2 decades, Jenbacher in the Netherlands had continually updated and optimized their greenhouse cogeneration plants resulting in more than 2,000 MW of Jenbacher CHP installations deployed in greenhouses across the country. The vast majority of these projects are operating grid parallel and have the flexibility to power grow lights or to export power into the grid when power prices were high, utilize all the heat recovered for system efficiencies greater than 93%, and utilize the CO2 present in engine exhaust for enhancing plant growth.
For these greenhouse projects, a high level of standardization was applied, covering the entire installation including heat recovery equipment, sound enclosure, ventilation systems, exhaust systems, controls, greenhouse integration, etc., allowing for successfully delivering as many as 180 installations per year.
When applying the same project design and implementation methods to international projects, it became clear that minimizing work to be performed on site could significantly improve the ability to control project schedules and construction costs.
This is where Gruppo AB came in. As a company with decades long experience of working exclusively with Jenbacher gas engines at the heart of their best in class, containerized CHP plants, Gruppo AB was the perfect organization to take greenhouse cogeneration to the next level.
Following the incorporation of ABGPN, the team at AB set out to develop a greenhouse specific version of their containerized CHP plants.
AB has created a system that is essentially a combination of 3 modules (containerized generator set, exhaust cleaning, and heat recovery). During the manufacturing process the entire CHP plant will be assembled at the AB factory, before taking it apart and shipping it to the end destination.
Once arrived on site, the complete CHP plant can be re-assembled in as little as 5 days, providing greenhouse cogeneration customers with the following connection points:
- Gas inlet at container wall
- Electricity at generator terminals
- Hot water at container wall
- CO2 at exhaust stack
Timing of this product development has been perfect. Global greenhouse construction has increased significantly in recent years and many sites that either require power that cannot be provided by the local utility, or sites that are looking for lowering their energy costs have started to utilize the CHP plants offered by Gruppo AB.
One market that has benefitted significantly from these developments is Canada. In Ontario, after years of trying to develop a program to facilitate implementation of greenhouse CHP plants, finally in 2014 a CHP standard offer program (CHPSOP) was introduced that made it possible for greenhouses to finally justify the installation of cogeneration. In the years following as many as 7 greenhouses managed to secure a contract with the IESO and proceed with construction of their cogeneration projects. Testament to the success of the Gruppo AB greenhouse standardization efforts, all 7 projects, ranging in size from 2.7 MW to 13.3 MW, are utilizing the Gruppo AB technology for their projects.
Ravensbergen in Smithville, Ontario. The CHP plant is a 2.65 MW installation with Jenbacher model J616. Power is sold into the Ontario grid under CHPSOP 2 contract with the IESO.
With 3 CHPSOP projects in operation, 2 under construction and the final 2 waiting for grid connection confirmation, this has been a tremendous success for the AB organization and their technology that has been developed specifically for this most challenging application.
Building on this, the Canadian cultivation market also has taken off. In this case projects are often driven by the need for power, where utilities often struggle to deliver electricity required. Similarly, the cultivation sector utilization of greenhouse specific, standardized CHP plants is being recognized as the best way to implement projects. One such customer is Aphria, who at multiple sites have installed 20 MW of AB’s greenhouse CHP plants that deliver electricity, heat, CO2 and even cooling (through absorption chillers) to their cultivation greenhouses.
It has taken some years for various markets to mature, but the future looks bright for AB’s greenhouse CHP plants in the global greenhouse markets.
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