The Dutch energy firm, AgroEnergy, has introduced an emergency power 'flexpool' to Dutch growers. This offers growers additional opportunities in the emergency energy market. They can offer CHP capacity for a few hours a day. This flexibility persuaded cucumber grower Jaco den Bakker to participate. "Now we can maximize the CHP's potential," he explains on the energy collective's website.
A horticultural company's energy costs strongly determine its cost price. That is true at Jaco's farm, Padland Brielle, too. Limiting energy costs as much as possible is, therefore, a top priority for him. "Especially with the current energy prices," says Jaco, who grows 2.5 hectares of cucumbers. He sells these via The Greenery.
He uses a 1.4MW CHP to heat his greenhouse. He delivers the generated electricity back to the grid. "However, we don't use it during our eight-to-nine-week crop changeover. And it regularly stands idle at other times during the year too. Especially in the summer, when we don't need much heat."
Offering power generated by his CHP for emergencies was not an option for Jaco until recently. "Your power had to be exclusively available to TenneT [a high-voltage grid operator] for at least 24 hours. I could do that during the crop changeover. But it was too risky for the rest of the year. I didn't want to risk my CHP not being available if I might need it. That would negatively affect my crop," he explains.
However, in early 2021, AgroEnergy introduced this emergency 'flexpool'. That brought providing emergency power within the grower's reach. Participating growers can make their power available at hours that suit them. It does not have to be available for 24 hours.
AgroEnergy pools this capacity and offers it collectively to the market. "We can now offer CHP power at hours that suit us. And we don't have to be on standby for 24 hours. That provided the flexibility I was looking for," says Jaco.
"We now make emergency power available during crop rotations. And also, at other times during the year, when we don't need the CHP. We let AgroEnergy know when we'll have emergency power available. That's on the CHP usage predictions they give us. Other than that, there's nothing else to do."
No impact on daily operations
De Bakker has been part of this pool since October. And he has no regrets. It is even bringing in good money. "The fees for offering emergency power vary but are generally good. And you earn money from an idle cogeneration plant. What could be better?"
"Offering emergency power is, thus, an ideal way of optimizing CHP efficiency. And there's no question of negative effects on daily operations. We only offer emergency electricity when it suits us."
The grower cannot think of any disadvantages to the emergency power pool. "Except perhaps that you have to determine two days ahead exactly when you'll have CHP capacity available. You have to keep an eye on that," Jaco concludes.