Renewable Energy in the Green Greenhouse

Energy needs for all buildings involved in the Integrated Greenhouse project will be supplied by two main sources:

  • Solar energy collected from within the new glasshouse and stored using a Vertical Soil Heat Exchanger (VSHE) for later use; and
  • A 220kW Froeling Turbomat wood chip (biomass) boiler.

The VSHE system will be installed during Green Greenhouse construction. The biomass boiler, on the other hand, is already in use, having been fitted as part of building phase 1, in 2006, when The Living Rainforest became the first public, indoor rainforest garden to convert from fossil fuel to renewable biomass heating.

Currently, the heating system monitors the various glasshouses and associated areas individually and draws sufficient heat from the boiler systems to maintain appropriate temperatures. Preference is given to the woodchip boiler, with a Strebel E500 400kW oil-fired boiler topping up as needed. Once the Green Greenhouse and VSHE are in place, this preference system will draw on the VSHE first with the woodchip being used for top-up. As the oil-fired boiler is incompatible with The Living Rainforest’s goal of a neutral or negative carbon footprint, it will be left in place only to supply back-up heat in the event of repair or maintenance requirements for the other systems.

The new glasshouse will be used as a passive solar collector. During warm, sunny periods, excess heat from inside the greenhouse will be collected and stored within the VSHE and when heat is required under cooler conditions (e.g. seasonally and overnight) energy will be recovered from the VSHE.

Potentially, the amount of heat captured by using a glasshouse as a passive solar collector, linked to a ground storage system like the VSHE, is greater than the annual heating needs of the glasshouse. Thus, it is in principle possible to use this excess energy to heat associated buildings and glasshouses on one site. The Integrated Greenhouse Project will demonstrate this.

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