CAMARILLO, Calif. — GE and its customer Houweling’s Tomatoes, a leading North American greenhouse grower, have unveiled the first combined heat and power (CHP) greenhouse project in America that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) for use in plant fertilization. Using two of GE’s 4.36-megawatt (MW) Jenbacher J624 two-staged turbocharged natural gas engines and a GE-designed CO2 fertilization system, the plant provides heat, power, and CO2 to Houweling’s 125-acre tomato greenhouse in Camarillo, Calif.

Fueled by natural gas, Houweling’s CHP system provides 8.7 MW of electrical power and 10.6 MW of thermal power (hot water) for heating the large-scale glass greenhouses on-site. The system offers a total thermal efficiency of nearly 90 percent. When considering the avoided energy that would be required to externally source the CO2 and the recovery of water from the exhaust, the overall system efficiency approaches 100 percent, said GE. Western Energy Systems, GE’s authorized U.S. distributor of Jenbacher gas engines and part of the Penn Power Systems organization, engineered and installed the CHP plant.

The CHP system will enable flexible generation and contribute electric power during peak daytime demand periods. With a five-minute start-up capability, the high-efficiency plant also provides power to the electric utility to augment the power grid. Additionally, the thermal energy produced during power generation can be transferred to the greenhouse immediately during cooler periods or retained in existing thermal storage tanks for use at other times of the day.

The concept of a power plant being able to generate heat and power at nearly 100 percent overall efficiency is made possible by condensing out water vapor created in the combustion process. Thermal energy is recovered in exhaust gas heat exchangers for use in this ultra-efficient greenhouse, which utilizes very low water temperatures in its heating system to cool down exhaust temperatures below the dew point.

“This CHP system will provide the necessary heat, power, and CO2 for the growth of our fresh greenhouse tomatoes,” says Casey Houweling, the owner of the greenhouse facility. “However, the impact of this project on the region goes far beyond the vegetables produced in the greenhouse. This ultra-high-efficiency CHP plant also will provide flexible power to our local utility with a very short response time. GE’s proven technology and industry-leading efficiencies allow us to have one of the lowest CO2 footprints and water usage in the region for a power plant of this size. In fact, we plan to use the water condensed out of the exhaust gas in our operations — this will save approximately 9,500 gallons per day of usage from local water sources. We felt this project was the right thing to do for both our company and our community.”

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Publication date: 9/10/2012