Lifestyles

Delta bylaw would allow cogeneration power at greenhouses

Houweling’s Tomatoes marketing officer David Bell shows some strawberry tomatoes which are almost ready to be plucked from the vine and served up on the menu. The Ladner greenhouse operation is one of four currently seeking rezoning applications in order to build cogeneration facilities. - File photo
Houweling’s Tomatoes marketing officer David Bell shows some strawberry tomatoes which are almost ready to be plucked from the vine and served up on the menu. The Ladner greenhouse operation is one of four currently seeking rezoning applications in order to build cogeneration facilities.
— image credit: File photo

Delta Council has given first and second readings to a zoning amendment bylaw that would allow greenhouse operations on agriculturally zoned properties to combine heat and power generation facilities.

The use of combined heat and power generation fuelled by natural gas is becoming increasingly attractive to greenhouse operators as a way to reduce energy costs and increase the availability of CO2 to enhance crop production.

Cogeneration involves using a combined heat and power engine to produce thermal and electrical energy. Combined heat and power engines also release CO2 that can be captured and used as a fertilizer in greenhouse operations.

Delta’s bylaws currently do not allow for cogeneration facilities on agriculturally zoned land. The zoning amendment would follow recent land use standards adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture in May 2013.

However, the municipality has allowed exemptions in the past. Maxim Power (now owned by Village Farms) in North Delta was granted a license to use landfill gas as a fuel source in 2002. Over the past three years, there have been five other applications to establish alternative energy production facilities, including natural gas-powered cogeneration facilities.

Seabreeze Farms in North Delta and Longo/Earth Renu on Annacis Island have applications to produce bio-gas for sale to FortisBC, but the bylaw amendment before council will only address natural gas cogeneration.

There are currently four rezoning applications for cogeneration facilities associated with greenhouse operations in Delta. Maxim Power in North Delta is applying for combined heat and power generators from landfill gas, while Village Farms in North Delta and Houweling Nurseries and VanMarrewyk/Aljane Greenhouses in Ladner are applying for natural gas permits. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) approved the latter application on Oct. 22, 2013.

As the need for and utility of cogeneration facilities for greenhouses in Delta grows, Delta’s planning director Jeff Day said Delta should consider including it as a standard use in agricultural zoning so that rezoning is not required for each facility.

Combined heat and power engines would not entirely replace natural gas boilers. A combination of the two systems is necessary to obtain the higher heat provided by boilers at certain times of the year, however continuous operation of combined heat and power engines consumes almost twice the natural gas as a standard boiler to obtain the same thermal energy. Running them requires that the additional fuel cost be offset by the electricity produced to light the greenhouses and CO2 for greenhouse crop fertilization. The surplus electricity would be sold to BC Hydro. It is expected that the cogeneration system would produce a net surplus of electricity even when high intensity lighting is utilized by the greenhouse.

However, the bylaw would restrict cogeneration primarily for internal use.

“The intent of the bylaw is to ensure that the size of the cogenerating plant will be specifically for use within the farm,” said Day. “There’s not the intention that it will become a money-making effort just selling to the grid.”

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