Polish big greenhouse producers on their way to circularity
For every entrepreneur, a break in electricity supply can result in huge losses. On the other hand, the cost of energy in Poland is increasing and the discussion about obtaining it from renewable energy sources is more and more intense. The entrepreneurs themselves also want to have climate friendly production. What ideas do they have for this challenge?
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Phalenopsis needs warmth
JMP Flowers is one of the entrepreneurs who decided to be independent from electricity supplies. It is the largest Polish producer of Phalenopsis orchid that is mainly export-oriented (it also successfully exports to the Netherlands, which is a challenging direction in the floriculture). Plants grow on over 18 hectares and require proper fertilization, temperature and hydration. These works are performed largely by machines, therefore any interruptions in energy supply would be extremely troublesome and dangerous for the company's condition. For this reason, JMP Flowers purchased a cogeneration unit of the German company Caterpillar with an electric capacity of 4.5 MW and heat capacity of approx. 5.25 MW.
Cogeneration systems enable simultaneous production of electricity and heat, and therefore are a very suitable solution for greenhouse production. They are powered by gaseous fuel, which is more climate friendly (many greenhouses in Poland are still heated with coal). In addition, the CO2 produced during energy production is captured by the cleaning system installed in the unit and then circulated in the greenhouses. There, plants use it in the process of photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, which is then discharged into the atmosphere. Such emissions management is part of the circular model.
Energy in tomato production
Another big Polish entrepreneur, Citronex, a company that produces tomatoes throughout the year (most companies in Poland operate mainly from spring to autumn, due to the costs of heating and lighting in the winter time), is investing EUR 60 million in a completely new facility in Ryczywół in the Mazovia region, to start organic tomato cultivation in a 20ha greenhouse. Even if the investment is delayed due to the pandemic, it will be heated with waste heat from the nearby Kozienice power plant. The heat will be supplied through the existing pipeline directly from the power plant to the greenhouse facilities. Kozienice takes water from the Vistula river and uses it as a coolant. Through this process, the water heats up and cannot be directly discharged into the river (this would endanger the entire ecological system in the area). Power plant will supply greenhouses in Ryczywół with this heated water, the company will use it to heat greenhouses and finally water, already chilled, will be transported back to the river.
This is the company's second investment of this type. The company has two other facilities: 60ha (and ultimately even 100ha) in Bogatynia, where energy comes from the nearby Turów power plant and is also supplied in the form of waste heat, and in Siechcice, where Citronex has 50ha of greenhouses (tomatoes and cucumbers), which at this moment is still powered by the energy purchased from the operator, but the company is seriously thinking about investment in cogeneration unit, due to the gas pipeline running nearby.
Due to the current development of the energy economy in Poland and the need to maintain the competitiveness and profitability of production, Polish greenhouse producers will certainly not be able to fully use modern technologies for heating greenhouses for the next few years. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the largest ones definitely take environmental issues into account and - even if not for 100% - are willing to implement environmentally friendly solutions in their productions.