Sustainable greenhouse grower SunSelect Produce, Inc., was recently awarded $500,000 from Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) to offset the cost of two newly installed energy-efficient cogeneration engines at the grower’s facility in Tehachapi, CA. The new combined heat and power system is designed to capture otherwise wasted carbon dioxide, heat, and water to improve its greenhouse tomato and bell pepper production.
In addition, large natural gas-powered engines will produce enough electricity to power the full operation—plus an additional 2,300 homes. In total, the new cogeneration system will save SunSelect over 7,000 gallons of water per day and divert approximately 12,000 metric tons of CO₂ emissions a year—the equivalent of taking 2,600 cars off the road—by converting the emissions into plant nutrients.
“Natural gas-powered cogeneration systems are win-win operations that provide our customers a competitive solution for the business and sustainable results for California’s clean energy goals,” said Rasha Prince, director of commercial and industrial services at SoCalGas. “We’re proud to support SunSelect with this energy-efficient upgrade that will help keep their energy bills low and reduce emissions linked to climate change.”
“SunSelect is committed to creating a sustainable future for our planet, and with the help and support from SoCalGas’ equipment incentive program, we’re able to bring that vision to life and grow our business in California,” said Len Krahn, CEO of SunSelect Produce, Inc. “Indoor farming is becoming increasingly more energy efficient and eco-friendly, and it’s technology like this cogeneration system that is advancing the future of greenhouses.”
SunSelect is an industry leader in greenhouse sustainability and carbon reduction. In 2012, the grower’s Delta facility in Delta, British Columbia was the first greenhouse in the world to utilize the GC6 Green Carbon Capture System, which allows carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere to be utilized by greenhouse grown vegetable crops. In addition, SunSelect’s facility in Aldergrove, British Columbia utilizes specialty energy systems to create heat from recycled wood waste from local saw mills, minimizing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions to the same amount that is released when plants decompose naturally.
SunSelect’s cogeneration equipment was purchased in part through SoCalGas’ Rule 38 Incentive Program, which formerly supported the development and use of new, cost-effective high-efficiency commercial and industrial equipment by reimbursing customers for up to half of the cost. SoCalGas’ Rule 38 Incentive Program provided financial incentives to commercial, industrial, and agricultural customers for the purchase of energy-efficient, natural gas-fired equipment or for the cost of feasibility studies that evaluate the potential benefits of qualifying energy-efficient equipment. The program helped offset up to 50 percent of equipment costs, up to $500,000 per project. It also provided up to 50 percent of research study costs, up to a maximum of $50,000 per study. This spring the California Public Utilities Commission voted to discontinue the program, and in May the program was closed to new contracts.
Since 1990, SoCalGas’s energy efficiency and rebate programs have reduced emissions equal to taking almost 700,000 cars off the road and have saved customers more than $670 million in utility bill costs. Moreover, because of energy efficiency measures and new innovative technology, business and homes account for only about 7.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions statewide, according to the California Air Resources Board. SoCalGas offers more than 90 energy efficiency programs that deliver close to $161 million in annual cost savings directly to its customers.
SoCalGas is working to increase the production and use of renewable natural gas, or biogas, which turns methane emissions into a source of clean energy to fuel homes and businesses.