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GE and Houweling’s Tomatoes Unveil First Greenhouse Combined Heat and Power Project in US

August 22, 2012 |

News Release – CAMARILLO, CALIF.—August 22, 2012—GE (NYSE: GE) and its customer Houweling’s Tomatoes, a leading North American greenhouse grower, today 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), ecomagination-qualified Jenbacher J624 two-staged turbocharged natural gas engines and a GE-designed CO2fertilization system, the plant provides heat, power and COto Houweling’s 125-acre tomato greenhouse in Camarillo, Calif.

Interior of one of Houweling's Tomatoes sprawling high-tech and sustainable greenhouses in Camarillo, CA

The first greenhouse CHP project in the U.S. also gives an added boost to California’s goal to generate 6,500 MW of new CHP generation in the state by 2020. The project represents the launch of GE’s J624 two-staged turbocharged gas engines for the 60 Hz segment and the first of these engines sold in the U.S. Introduced by GE in 2007, the J624 is the world’s first 24-cylinder gas engine for commercial power generation and can be used in various applications. It also is the first gas engine featuring double turbocharging, which makes it even more efficient.

Today’s announcement supports Houweling’s position in the agriculture industry and state of California as a forward-thinking, innovative business. Late last year, California Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown honored Houweling’s with a 2011 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for developing environmentally friendly practices while contributing to the local economy.

Powering the Greenhouse and the Community

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 the water from the exhaust, the overall system efficiency exceeds 100 percent. 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 cogeneration plant.

Casey Houweling unveiling the first greenhouse combined heat and power project in the US with carbon dioxide fertilization

The CHP plant will enable flexible generation and contribute electric power during peak daytime demand periods. With a five-minute start-up capability, this high-efficiency plant also provides power to the electric utility for augment of the power grid. Additionally, the thermal energy produced from the engine 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 COfor 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.”

Applications for interconnection with the electric utility and county permits have been approved.

“GE has installed more than 800 gas engine CHP units in greenhouses globally. This represents approximately 2 gigawatts of power generation plus CO2 fertilization systems. With the installation of Houweling’s engines we now have our first U.S.-based system,” said Scott Nolen, product line management leader for GE Gas Engines. “A key goal at GE focuses on helping our customers to reduce their impact on the environment and on their community. One Jenbacher J624 two-stage turbocharged gas engine can provide electrical power for about 4,400 average U.S. homes, saving about 10,700 tons of COper year[1]. This is equal to the annual CO2emissions of more than 2,000 U.S. cars.”

CO2, which is present in engine exhaust gases, will be purified and piped into the greenhouse to fertilize the plants during the daylight photosynthesis process. GE’s Center of Excellence in the Netherlands for greenhouse applications developed the technology for the CO2 fertilization system that removes unwanted carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides with special catalytic reduction equipment and provides purified CO2 to greenhouses like Houweling’s. As a result, this high-efficiency, low-emission system will offset the use of natural gas boilers, making this an environmentally sound investment for the grower.

Houweling’s has invested in a COdiNOx-Selective Catalytic Reduction system to minimize the amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and toxic air contaminants. The final emitted levels of pollutants will meet the levels required by the local regulatory agency as identified in the air permit.

The local air pollution control district in Ventura County has required the installation of best available control technology for the CHP plant. The NOxemissions have been limited to a maximum concentration level of 5 ppmv. This represents a reduction from Houweling’s current boilers, which are limited to a maximum of 40 ppmv NOx.

Revolutionary Two-Stage Turbocharging Technology

Responding to growing global demand for high-efficiency power generation,in June 2010, GE announced that it has developed the world’s first two-stage turbocharged gas engine and is applying this game-changing technology to its Jenbacher J624 gas engine. The new engine provides a significant output and efficiency increase compared to the single turbocharged version and is particularly well suited for operation in hot environments and CHP applications. Seventeen two-stage turbocharged engines are currently operating worldwide with more than 60 more on order.

With the new system, which GE developed with specialists from ABB Turbo Systems Ltd., the J624 50-Hz version achieves approximately 10 percent higher output (4 MW to 4.4 MW) and offers an electrical efficiency of 46.5 percent, an increase of about 1 percentage point. Improved efficiency is critical for the competitive cost of electricity and for the reduction of CO2emissions in a carbon-constrained environment.

Western Energy Systems provides comprehensive application, sales engineering, systems integration and parts and service capabilities for GE’s Jenbacher natural gas and special gas power generation projects. As part of the Penn DDA/Penn Power Systems organization, Western Energy Systems and its sister company, Northeast Energy Systems, bring more than 50 years of experience in reciprocating engine power applications.

Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to providing innovative solutions that maximize resources, drive efficiencies and help make the world work better.

Houweling’s Tomatoes is a leading and innovative North American greenhouse grower with facilities in Camarillo, Calif., and Delta, British Columbia, growing a broad line of premium, hydroponically grown tomatoes and seedless cucumbers on a year-round basis. Houweling’s also operates a plant propagation division for all varieties of greenhouse-grown products. Houweling’s number one objective is to produce the freshest, safest and best tasting products from seed to the consumer’s plate in the most environmentally sensitive way practicable.

To view a video on the Houweling’s Tomatoes plant, please click here. To watch a webcast of the press event at Houweling’s, please click here.

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