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Energy Saving Technology Brings Home the Bacon for Tomato Grower

Houweling conservation manager Richard Vanderburg shows tomatoes to Energy
Commission staff member Rizaldo Aldas.
Tomatoes are found everywhere – on top of salads; in a pot of spaghetti; and occasionally sandwiched between special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

They are also found under glass at the sprawling 125-acre Houweling’s Tomatoes greenhouse farm in Camarillo, about 15 miles southeast of Ventura.

Vanderburg explains the combined heat and power systems to Aldas.
In 2012, the California Energy Commission awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) to help demonstrate to the state’s agricultural communities, the many benefits that combined heat and power (CHP) technology offers.

Working with Houweling’s Tomatoes, SoCalGas installed three 4.36-megawatt natural gas-fired engines at the Camarillo farm. The engines generate enough electricity to power the farm and about 8,000 average sized homes, so excess electricity is sold back to the grid during the day. Waste heat from the engines is captured in thermal storage tanks and used to heat the greenhouse at night and during the winter.

The engine’s exhaust contains carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas harmful to humans but great for plants because it assists with photosynthesis. The carbon dioxide is captured, purified and used as fertilizer diverting about 37,000 tons of CO2 yearly and greatly reducing the farm’s need to purchase liquid CO2 for fertilizer. The exhaust also produces water that when condensed, provides about 9,500 gallons daily for greenhouse operations.

Those benefits allow Houweling’s Tomatoes to farm 24 hours a day and to extend its growing season. With that kind of success, it’s only a matter of time before other commercial greenhouses in the state look to catch up with CHP technology.

Click here to view a short video of the greenhouse operations.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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