How cucumbers can help with the energy transition

Velké Němčice,  21. septembrie 2022

How cucumbers can help with the energy transition

Velké Němčice,  21. septembrie 2022

Thanks to covered greenhouses, we are sure that we will get fresh vegetables grown nearby. But did you know that they also have a major role to play in achieving energy security?

Make cucumbers grow fast

The Maryša greenhouse is located in Velké Němčice in southern Moravia. There are two parts of the greenhouse. The smaller section, 1.6 hectares,  is unlit, and a larger 3 hectare section is lit with 3000 high pressure sodium lamps, both for growing cucumbers. 

There is a combined heat and power generator (CHP) supplying heat, electricity for lighting as well as CO2 to increase production volume of the cucumbers. During production of heat and electricity, the exhaust is scrubbed with a catalytic converter. This purifies the CO2 to the level necessary for use in the greenhouse. The nice advantage is that the CO2, which would otherwise go into the atmosphere, is absorbed by the plants, decreasing the overall carbon footprint of the operation.

Ancillary services against rising energy prices

Running the greenhouse is extremely energy intensive in terms of heating, electricity, water, and CO2. Increases in the price of gas have made it very difficult to stay competitive. If the costs of running the system get too high, it won’t be possible to continue operating and it won’t be possible to offer produce at reasonable prices. The greenhouse takes the most critical care of every aspect of maintaining its energy infrastructure. Nonetheless, increasing prices of the necessary inputs, like gas, are out of the control of the greenhouse operators.

„The current energy situation forces us to think even more carefully about the cost of operation, and for this reason, we offer our resources for ancillary services when we don't need them for cultivation."

1 MW
total output of the CHP unit
4 500
MTH/year: number of operating hours
ancillary services

Timing is key

In 2018, the Maryša greenhouse made the decision to give control of part of its energy infrastructure to Nano Energies. As recently as late 2021, Nano Energies began offering the energy supplied by the CHPs on the ancillary services market in the Czech Republic. At times when electricity is not needed for the greenhouse, it can be switched on or off depending on the needs of the TSO. It is also possible to turn off the lights at times when the overall grid consumption is too high, letting the greenhouse profit from participation in grid balancing services but also helping the grid to stay in balance overall.

Maximum yield with minimum effort

Despite a critical situation in the energy prices nowadays, cooperation with Nano Energies has allowed the Maryša greenhouse to keep their operation running and profitable. The vast majority of the time, the operation continues as normal, and in rare occurrences, when activation is necessary, there is no material difference to daily activities. In short, the cooperation has been very successful.  In working together, Nano Energies has unlocked new revenue streams for Agro Maryša.

„The collaboration with Nano Energies is amazing. We’ve been working together for a long time. Nano knows very well what the needs of our operation are. We know that the main thing in a greenhouse is to grow vegetables and the main thing in a CHP is to supply heat to people. Those are things that they combine well."