Farm Fresh Tomatoes in Frigid February  

Levi Tiemstra loves being able to provide his customers with fresh, local, high quality produce – all year round. The central Alberta greenhouse grower is succeeding in his goal, despite daunting circumstances. Canadian prairie winter nights are long and cold – adverse conditions for growing tomatoes.  In the face of these challenges however, Gull Valley Greenhouses is thriving. In fact, the Tiemstra family business recently expanded their operations, thanks in part to their proactive approach to managing energy.

Greenhouses require significant energy to operate, particularly in Alberta. The Tiemstra family were confident that supplemental LED lighting would provide the energy they needed for year round production. Gull Valley chose LED lights because they are the most efficient on the market today. However, despite their lower energy requirements, the LED lights still contributed to burgeoning power costs.

Levi Tiemstra realized he needed to do something about the rates he was paying. He wanted to better understand the complexity of the electricity market in Alberta. Levi turned to 360 Energy for help.

“360 Energy guided us in making better decisions and educating us on the complexity of power costs”, Levi says.

360 Energy has been able to help Gull Valley Greenhouses in three significant ways:

  1. They showed the Tiemstras how and when to lock in beneficial, longer term electricity contracts.
  2. Their reports have given a detailed and clear perspective of monthly energy use.
  3. They have worked with the Tiemstras to assess the potential feasibility for onsite co-generation and solar projects.

Levi Tiemstra applied the energy knowledge he has gained to implement other energy conservation measures.

“Dehumidification was a big one for us”, he said. Humidity is a significant factor in greenhouse operations. The traditional method for achieving humidity balance is to open a vent near the top of the greenhouse to let humid air escape. However, the drier air this brings into the greenhouse, is much colder, especially in the winter.  It creates a big spike in heating demand.

The solution?

Gull Valley installed a de-humidification system incorporating a heat coil and air exchange ventilator. Along with the use of energy curtains, the volume of air they need to heat in the building has been reduced dramatically. “Deploying the screen alone, reduced our heating costs by about 30%”, says Levi.

The Tiemstra family has extensive experience in the greenhouse industry. They know that the viability of their family business, and the industry as a whole, depends on constantly finding ways to become more efficient. Energy efficiency plays a big part in that pursuit.

When Levi Tiemstra succeeds at what he loves to do, he gives his Alberta customers a healthy choice. They can eat farm fresh, locally grown tomatoes, even in the middle of the winter.

It’s another of the innumerable, and far reaching rewards that come from managing energy proactively.

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