Greencoat Capital, a UK investor in renewable energy, today announced an £86m project to construct an advanced greenhouse at a site near Ely, Cambridgeshire. The site will employ LED lighting to accelerate growth, whilst warming the structure using heat pumps situated in a nearby reservoir.
Open-loop heat pumps will be used to transfer the heat from the nearby reservoir to the greenhouses. Power for the greenhouse’s heat pumps and LED lighting will be provided by a Combined Heat and Power (“CHP”) plant, with waste heat from the CHP providing further warmth for the greenhouses.
The gas-fired CHP plant’s carbon emissions will then be transferred into the greenhouses, raising the CO2 levels and further accelerating the growth of the plants, whilst capturing the carbon.
The greenhouse is among the largest ever constructed in the UK with a footprint of over 22Ha. Standing around 8m tall the large glass structures allow crops to grow vertically along guidewires and do not require any soil, instead of being grown hydroponically from nutrient-rich water solutions. Once in full production, the greenhouse will yield an average crop of 35 tonnes of cucumbers per day across the year.
Greenhouses are designed to capture and store solar radiation, thereby increasing air temperature and accelerating plant growth. In Europe, solar radiation alone cannot provide sufficient energy to reach optimal growing temperatures throughout the day, even in the summer. Most commercial greenhouses overcome this problem by using another heat source to increase temperature. This allows in-demand produce such as tomatoes and cucumbers to be grown year-round.
The majority of greenhouses use gas-fired boilers for this additional energy. Greencoat Capital’s unique approach displaces a large proportion of these fossil fuel emissions by using waste heat from the nearby water reservoir.
James Samworth, Partner at Greencoat Capital, said: “We’re very pleased to have achieved another innovative first in sustainable agriculture, using renewable heat sources to offset the energy consumption of LED lights – saving energy as well as transport-related emissions in the winter months when the UK would generally be importing these vegetables. We see considerable opportunity to invest in renewable heat in the UK, providing pensions investors with the predictable returns they require to pay beneficiaries, meanwhile reducing our carbon emissions as an economy.”
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