By Christie Black of Penn State News
Lakeville Specialty Produce Co. is a one-acre facility in Washingtonville, PA, specializing in premium salad greens for restaurants, caterers and consumers. Lakeville was losing its primary heat source for its greenhouse, resulting in costs that could negatively affect the company’s bottom line and the future of its lettuce production. However, the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP) at Penn State worked with the Montour County greenhouse to find the resources and funding needed to stay in business.
Lakeville’s products are hydroponic, meaning they are grown without soil. Roots are supported in foam cubes and supplied with a solution of mineral nutrients. Lakeville’s greenhouse relied on propane heaters and waste heat from a local power plant to supply energy to heat the greenhouse through the winter. The waste heat, sent from the power plant in the form of water, was the primary source of heat used in order to reduce cost and environmental impact. Over the years, the power plant began to reduce its operation and, as a result, it was not sending a large enough quantity of hot water to Lakeville to produce heat.
Richard Towart, director of operations for Lakeville Specialty Produce, said while the greenhouse was equipped with propane heaters, they were costly to run and not intended to be the primary source of heat.
“We would love to use natural gas, but since we don’t have a pipeline in the area — it would need to be trucked in to a delivery pad and dispersed to the greenhouse,” Towart said. “At the present time, we are not a large enough facility and the demand for natural gas is not great enough to be eligible to have it delivered, so we contacted PennTAP to look at options that would be economical and sustainable.”
Royal Smith, technical adviser for PennTAP, played a key role in helping Lakeville transition to a new process for heating its greenhouse.
“Lakeville knew it had to switch to either all propane or natural gas, based on the power plant’s lack of operation, but had no context for the energy or cost savings from the switch,” Smith said. “PennTAP calculated those savings for Lakeville and identified grant funding through the PA DEP and USDA to help them with the financial costs of updating their heating system, and then assisted them through the application process.”
With possible funding in hand, Lakeville decided to install new furnaces that are designed to run on propane or natural gas.
“Although for now we are still running on propane, the new furnaces are 93 percent efficient, rather than our previous heaters which were only 70 percent efficient,” Towart said. “We can maintain the efficiency to qualify for grants that will help us pay for some of the cost to install and fuel 24 new furnaces. PennTAP was instrumental in not only guiding us through our options, but also illuminating opportunities that would help make it a financially sound decision.”
PennTAP provides no-cost energy and pollution assessments to companies with 500 employees or less. Consultants offer assistance with energy grant applications and rebates, Energy and Environment (E2) initiatives, Economy, Energy and Environment (E3) initiatives, building retuning, and training for EnMS, ISO 50001 and SEP.
For more information, visit PennTAP online or call 814-865-0427.
Original story located here: https://news.psu.edu/story/549146/2018/11/28/impact/penntaps-consultants-help-pennsylvania-greenhouse-stay-business