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'Running a farm at twice the efficiency, half the cost'

"The funds had been committed to build a new facility, then at the last minute the electric utility said, "We'll have enough power for your facility in 12 to 18 months". What do you do then? This was the dilemma faced by an indoor agriculture startup based in Massachusetts. Waiting a year wasn't an option," says Dalton Allaben from Tecogen, a US-based manufacturer of clean energy solutions.

Addressing the topic of high investment costs whilst setting up a vertical farm, Dalton talks us through what it often takes to invest in your facility. Elaborating on the matter, Dalton shares, "Customers were waiting, investors were ready with their checkbook, and finding a new location in time wasn't going to happen. They needed to find a creative solution to open on schedule. As for energy, solar was a possibility, but they would need acres of land and huge batteries to maintain a 24/7 operation. Fortunately, one of their biggest electrical loads was cooling. Growing indoors requires constant cooling and humidity control to keep the plants in optimal conditions. If they could reduce the amount of electricity needed for cooling, they would be able to open on time."

"This is where Tecochill engine-driven chillers come in." Tecogen chillers can generate on-site cooling using a natural gas engine while simultaneously capturing the waste heat so both chilled water and hot water are produced with one efficient process. The cultivation facility could open without bringing power because the Tecochill only takes 2KW of power to operate compared to 300KW for an equivalent electric chiller.

Indoor agriculture, like many other industrial applications, has a significant upfront cost. To compete, they had to carefully control their operating costs so they could pay their investors back quickly and expand to the next facility. Since they were able to reduce their operating costs significantly at the same time as solving their power shortage problem, then they had a winning solution.

Twice the efficiency, half the cost
As Dalton explains, the efficiency advantages mean that the operating costs for the Tecochill plant are half that of an electric chiller plant. The power shortage issue has been solved and as a bonus, the high efficiencies of the Tecogen chiller means the greenhouse gases are reduced by 40 to 60%.

"More and more businesses looking to expand can't get enough power from the utility during peak times. If you're spending more than $100,000 on energy a year, have unreliable power, or lack of power using a Tecochill can benefit you," Dalton emphasizes.

The US federal government recognizes how critical these technologies are and is presently offering a 40% investment tax credit for anyone who invests in this technology in 2024.

For more information:
Dalton Allaben, Sales Engineer
[email protected]